UES H&H Bagels Store Closed By City Health Inspectors

UPPER EAST SIDE, NY — The H&H Bagels Upper East Side location has been shut down by the New York City Department of Health due to nine sanitary violations, according to city health inspection records.

Though the bright yellow notice posted by the Department on Tuesday has since been removed from the Second Avenue storefront, near East 81st Street, the lights remained off and the doors closed when Patch stopped by Thursday afternoon.

Officials gave the store 77 violation points during a regular inspection for an array of violations, leading to the bagelry’s immediate closure, according to city data.

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Critical violations found by city Health Department inspectors include evidence of mice, contaminated or cross-contaminated foods, dirty wiping cloths, improperly stored sanitized utensils, improperly stored cold food items — including fish and toxic chemicals or pesticides stored or used in a way that could contaminate food, records show.

Opened in 1974, H&H Bagels’ Upper East Side store — which sits on 2nd Avenue between East 80th and East 81st Streets — is its oldest operating location.

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A resident named Kristina told Patch Thursday that in recent years, H&H “feels like a different bagel store” than it once was.

“Prior to COVID, the line would be out the door Saturdays and Sundays every weekend and all of the outdoor tables would be full,” she said. “Before closing down it constantly looked like they were remodeling the inside. There is rarely anyone in there when I go in and fewer people working behind the counter.”

Another Upper East Sider, who did not give their name but said they used to go to the store “all the time,” said that the staff was “nice but disorganized.”

“I’m not surprised they failed an inspection, you could see when they were working [that] the place was dirty,” they added.

Other current H&H locations include one on the Upper West Side, one at John F. Kennedy Airport, one at LaGuardia Airport, and one at Moynihan Train Hall. The brand also recently announced plans for 20 nationwide franchise locations.

The Upper East Side location was originally owned by the same co-owners who also ran the more famous H&H Bagel on the Upper West Side, Helmer Toro and Hector Hernandez, according to a New York Times article from 1998 about a subsequent lawsuit over the name.

In 1985, facing bankruptcy, the two store split, and Toro bought out the Upper West Side Broadway location while a man named Perry Alexiou bought the Second Avenue spot from Hernandez.

Lawsuits between the two, now separate, H&H Bagels ensued over the use of the name, though thanks to shout-outs in shows like Seinfeld, Sex & The City and more, the Upper West Side store was indisputably much better known — and pulled in about $9 million more than the east side spot in 1997, according to the suit.

Down the road lay more money troubles for Toro, who was jailed in 2010 for withholding over $330,000 in payroll taxes from the state.

H&H on Broadway closed in 2011 and its Midtown shop and bagel factory shuttered a year later.

But Alexiou, whose operation was now legally called H&H Midtown Bagels East after the 2000 legal ruling, kept chugging along and eventually passed the business on to his daughter, Diana, and her husband, former Wall Street financier, Jay Rushin, who took over operations in 2014 and re-opened an Upper West Side H&H in 2016.

The Upper East Side H&H is the only location which bakes its bagels onsite, while the rest are made in a facility in Queens.

In addition to bagels, the chain’s menu boasts bagel sandwiches, drinks, baked goods, and salads.

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