Rackets Doom Lower East Side, East Village Retail

Under a settlement agreement reached with city prosecutors this past April, landlord Vic N. Yau is finally allowed to reopen the place—without paying a fine—but only on the condition that the space is “not to be used to sell sexually explicit or operate private booths showing sexually explicit materials” for at least the next year.

Perhaps, in the interim, some sort of pop-up store could fill the void.

A similar prostitution sting further threatens to shake up the dicey tenancy situation at 17 Essex Street on the Lower East Side, which on June 4 also got slapped with court papers. The current signage on the building’s basement level, where the illicit transactions allegedly took place, reads “TL Driver’s Club, Inc.” But be sure to make yourself very clear, if someone answers the door, about whether you’re actually willing to drive stick.

Karma, a hookah bar on First Avenue near Third Street, has put its remaining leasehold, its two valid liquor licenses and its highly valuable indoor-smoking permit up for sale, after the current proprietors shelled out $10,000 in fines this past February to keep the bar afloat in the wake of three NYPD underage-drinking busts since 2006. The asking price is a hefty $475,000 for the keys and the smoking and drinking privileges; the monthly $13,000 rent is separate. Constant police presence: priceless.

Of course, it’s not all sex, drugs, booze and fake ID’s below East 14th Street. Trafficking in fake handbags remains one of the most common rackets.

All the way up on the sixth floor of 154 Grand Street in Soho, for instance, customers had come for cheap facsimiles of all the big brand names, as a spy for designer Louis Vuitton discovered this past spring.

The Paris-based company is among the most litigious when it comes to defending the integrity of its brand, suing the owners of seven separate Canal Street properties over rampant counterfeit retailing in Chinatown in 2005 alone.

More recently, this past May, police, acting in conjunction with Louis Vuitton’s own operatives, covertly purchased three bags purportedly made by Prada, Chanel and Gucci, for a combined sum of $110.

At those low prices, customers could probably afford to ignore the location’s numerous safety-code violations.

The cops, on the other hand, promptly shuttered the place, which, building inspectors noted, had been “illegally subdivided into eight cubicles used for purposes of engaging in retail sales to the general public,” court papers show.

Perfect move-in conditions for the next group of shady salespeople!