Pricey Violations May Smoke Historic Harlem 'Cue
Sherman's Bar-B-Q, which has served up finger-licking food in Harlem for more than 60 years, is in danger of closing for good after its owners say they were slapped with multiple health code violations over the summer. NY1's Rebecca Spitz filed the following report.
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After Sherman Hibbitt opened his first barbecue restaurant in 1948 he became part of the Harlem elite, rubbing elbows with Langston Hughes and Eleanor Roosevelt. He also had a radio show and a brief political career. His daughter says he was a pillar in the community and a great businessman.
"He was very successful, at one time he had five different locations all operating at the same time," said Sherman's Bar-B-Q Manager/Owner Sherry Grinan.
Now there's only one Sherman's left on Seventh Avenue near 146th Street, run by Hibbitt's daughter. She says both the finger-licking barbecue ribs and chicken and the money were great.
"On Friday and Saturday nights we had business poppin', it was the place to go," Grinan said.
In August, the city's Department of Health inspected and said, "The establishment was cited for insufficient refrigeration, vermin infestation, extensive sanitary conditions and operating with an expired permit. As a result, the restaurant was ordered to close."
"We have outstanding violations with the Health Department which comes to over $15,000, and right now we're not able to pay it because we're not able to open," said Grinan.
Grinan says she also owes everyone from her landlord to the exterminator to the plumber and Con Edison. While the famous rotisserie has been cold for months, neighborhood residents say they would be sorry if the place closed for good.
"This is the only soul food spot up here right now," said one Harlem resident.
"You could never get an order of ribs like this, nowhere in Harlem," said another.
Grinan says she's desperate to re-open, adding she has made the necessary repairs but still has to find the money to pay her fines. Only then will the DOH come back out to re-inspect. Problem is, Grinan can't get a lease for next month.
With the clock ticking quickly, Grinan says she's looking for an investor or even a partner to help her out. Otherwise it's the end of the line for Sherman's on January 1.