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Tralf reopens for new season City works with club to get required permits

The Tralf reopened Thursday night with a sparse crowd but with the city licenses it needed to kick off its season.

The opening capped a hectic three days in which Tralf operator Rohit Kapoor scrambled to do repairs and obtain required permits and licenses. City officials obliged him by hustling to inspect the work and issue licenses and permits.

"Everything is all set. The permits are all taken care of," Scott Saxon, the club's executive producer, said as people trickled in for the evening's performance.

However, the Tralf still has to obtain additional approvals. The city issued a restaurant license only after the Tralf agreed to not operate the kitchen until further work is done. The city still hasn't issued a certificate of inspection, necessary for the club to obtain a license that allows dancing. Kapoor also must pass a criminal background check.

City officials were satisfied that the Tralf was safe enough to host a show by the Joshua Breakstone Trio and were eager to see the club open for Curtain Up!, today's opening of the downtown theater season.

Mayor Anthony M. Masiello said he was "not happy" over Kapoor's failure over the past year to obtain the necessary permits and licenses and the last-minute scrambling required to reopen the club.

"But I'd rather have it open in the heart of the Theater District in the most important week than closed," he
said. "If my inspections team believes it's safe, let's move on."

Saxon said the club is doing its part for Curtain Up!, with a production of "Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill" tonight and Saturday night.

Between 80 and 100 tickets were distributed for Thursday's performance, Saxon said, adding: "That's about where we expected to end up."

The Tralf has experienced serious problems over the past year, since Kapoor assumed control. The club lost money and fell behind in paying off a city loan and numerous vendors. It also was falling out of favor with some performers and their agents because of payment issues.

The Tralf also did not obtain building permits and business licenses from the city and ignored orders last spring to close until the necessary approvals were obtained.

The club closed for the summer, and city officials, when they learned last Friday of Kapoor's plans to reopen this week, said they would require him to obtain the necessary permits and licenses.

An inspection of the building by city officials Wednesday turned up some 20 code violations, beginning with problems with the sprinkler system.

Inspectors said it was unlikely Kapoor could make all the repairs in one day, but they returned Thursday and came away satisfied.

"We're satisfied there are no life-safety issues," said Permit and Inspections Commissioner Raymond K. McGurn.

He added that he didn't want to inconvenience customers who had purchased tickets to Thursday's show.

"There's no reason for them to be turned away," he said.

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