Embattled First Ave. speakeasy, Visana, closes

Visana/Pisa pizzeria (Photos by Sabina Mollot)


By Sabina Mollot

Visana, the speakeasy style cocktail lounge that operated behind a pizzeria across from Stuyvesant Town, has closed.

Opened two summers ago at 321 First Avenue, serving gluten free pizza in the front and cocktails with organic spirits in the back, business was rocky from nearly the start due to quality of life complaints from neighbors over noise. Police were also called to the scene over an incident of underage drinking in 2016.

In January, the business lost its liquor license, according to a document from the State Liquor Authority. The SLA cited several reasons, in a decision that was issued last November. Reasons included allowing the business to become noisy and “disorderly” enough to attract police attention, allowing dancing without a cabaret license and not conforming with regulations regarding the employment of security guards.

Meanwhile, according to David Jaffee, Visana’s owner, the business is now sold. Reached via email on Monday, he said he closed the lounge due to problems he was having with neighbors. He said he thought Visana might have succeeded elsewhere but said two neighbors in particular “made it their mission to always call police.”

Visana at 321 First Avenue

He added that while police were empathetic, the situation became too stressful for him and his partners so they decided to move on. He didn’t say what they’d be doing next or if his selling of the business means the lounge will operate under a new owner at the same address, which previously was home to an Italian restaurant and pizzeria, Adriatic, for 25 years.

So far, no new business has come to Community Board 6 to ask its blessing for a liquor license at the space. Last year, there had been negotiations with the former owner of Quigley’s, a now-closed bar/grill on First Avenue, to take over the venue, which had the full support of the board. However, the talks for that deal fell through.

A representative for the building’s landlord, Foxwood Realty, didn’t respond to a call requesting comment on plans for the storefront. Jaffee also didn’t respond to an emailed question about whether Visana, which also hosted private events, became BYOB after January. The businesses’ Yelp reviews at the venue were posted as recently as June 26 of this year. However, the reviews, mostly from people trying to book events there, appear to have taken a turn for the worse as time went on.

Prior to opening the business, Jaffee had gotten into hot water with the city for a scheme in which he offered cheap, short-term rentals in apartments in Manhattan to tourists. He later insisted to Town & Village that the business helped people who needed an affordable place to stay and that it was only meant to serve as a “bridge” to his real goal of bar ownership.

As of last Friday, the wooden pizza peel boards that adorned the walls of Visana’s adjoining pizzeria, Pisa, as decorations, were still up in the darkened space.


2 thoughts on “Embattled First Ave. speakeasy, Visana, closes

  1. Good news that this major dump has closed. Even the pizza was terrible, never mind the “lounge.” The owner, Jaffee, is a major you know what so please, don’t believe anything he says..Sorry that Quigley’s could not make it a go but understandable since they had to deal with Jaffee.

  2. I didn’t realize Quigley’s was ever in talks for that space. That would have been great if they had gone in there. A place like that is what the neighborhood misses dearly.

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