Giuseppe Cipriani, New York’s Ballroom Untouchable

The alleged smear campaign not only has included repeated calls to the cops and to regulators, but also shoddy renovation

The alleged smear campaign not only has included repeated calls to the cops and to regulators, but also shoddy renovation work in the lobby that has purportedly appalled and even chased away potential customers.

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On June 22, building management opened a two-foot hole in the dome of the rotunda and poked nine smaller holes in the ceiling, as part of a purported asbestos-removal program. The holes in the ceiling were covered up with panels that don’t match, and the dome was covered with an “unsightly” white plastic sheet, court papers show.

“The sponsors of the wedding last Friday were very upset at the condition of the lobby, particularly the condition of the dome,” complained Cipriani attorney Steven Wagner in a July 5 letter to L&L lawyer Jodi Kleinick.

It’s the same don’t-upset-the-happy-couple defense that Team Cipriani has employed since the lobby debacle first started three landlords ago. “It would be disastrous,” pleaded Mr. Cipriani’s former catering director, Wendy Gordon, in a 2006 affidavit, “to tell the bride and groom four days before their wedding ceremony that they can’t have their ceremony in the lobby of the building.”

And it’s not the first time that Mr. Cipriani has put his high standards of hospitality ahead of supposed safety measures. In 2003, he sued Rockefeller Center to prevent the installation of metal detectors at the entrance to the renowned Rainbow Room, which Cipriani USA also operates, citing party planners’ concerns about long lines to get through security.

According to L&L’s lawyers, the prior court record only strengthens their contention that Mr. Cipriani brazenly flouts the law.

“[I]f the City says you’re using the premises in the lobby unlawfully, what will your client do?” a judge asked Mr. Cipriani’s attorney, Mr. Wagner, according to a transcript of a January 2007 hearing.

“They’ll stop,” Mr. Wagner said—a promise that L&L claims Mr. Cipriani has not kept. (Although the city has declined to approve a permanent assembly permit for the Toy Center lobby, it has issued a temporary permit through the end of August.)


YET EVEN BREAKING THE LAW sometimes isn’t enough to stop a culinary juggernaut like Mr. Cipriani.

Consider last week’s guilty plea to a single charge of defrauding the city and state to the tune of $10 million in unpaid taxes, allegedly concealed through bogus licensing fees due to the company’s international parent, Cipriani SA, and sheltered in a secretive Luxembourg bank

In exchange, prosecutors agreed not to charge Mr. Cipriani with the far more serious crime of insurance fraud, allegedly “committed acting in concert” with former Cipriani vice president, Dennis Pappas, a reputed ex-mob associate who once managed several Cipriani locations and is now in prison.

Giuseppe Cipriani, New York’s Ballroom Untouchable