A longtime supporter of the U.S. Open has been kicked out of his luxury suite at Arthur Ashe Stadium for failing to order $24,000 worth of food.
Steven Levkoff, president of The Standard Group, a $70 million manufacturer of printed boxes for cereals, cookies and toys in Jackson Heights, said he will never watch the tennis tournament again.
There are a lot more troublesome things in the world, but Im not going to let myself be abused, he said. Its wrong to beat up on a small local businessman.
Levkoffs four-year luxury suite lease at the National Tennis Center expired after last years U.S. Open. When he was not billed in January for this years tournament, which begins Monday in Flushing Meadows Park, he became suspicious.
In a March letter to Levkoff, U.S. Open Projects Director Suzanne Maguire said the United States Tennis Association regrettably could not offer him the opportunity to renew his lease for luxury Suite 221. She said Levkoff had not adhered to the regulations set forth in paragraph 6(a) of the licensing agreement, which requires licensees to purchase an appropriate amount of food and beverage.
Calls to the U.S.T.A. seeking comment were not returned.
In 1999, midway through Levkoffs four-year agreement, he was notified in another letter from Maguire that an appropriate purchase was determined to be at least $24,000 for the 14-day tournament and that suite-holders not meeting the minimum would be assessed accordingly.
I wrote back saying the lease doesnt say anything about an amount, Levkoff said. Whos to say what an appropriate amount is?
The $24,000 is half of what it costs to watch the Anaheim Angels from a luxury suite at Edison Field for an entire 81-game season, according to Revenues from Sports Venues, a Milwaukee-based sports marketing publication.
But Levkoff, who said he had spent an average of $7,500 on food and beverages in his suite each year since 1997, in addition to money spent at concession centers run by Restaurant Associates throughout the stadium, was not only charged with under-ordering. Maguire said in her letter that Levkoff served food in the suite, purchased from an outside vendor, another violation of the lease.
Levkoff does not deny any of the charges.
Its true. I smuggled sandwiches into the stadium, he said. The Saturday semifinals is a long day and we decided to make a day out of it.
Levkoff said he was caught by a representative of Restaurant Associates, the in-house caterer at the stadium, who raised hell..
Levkoffs blunder cost him $1,089.91. I admitted I made a mistake, he said. I paid for food I never ordered or consumed.
In March, Levkoff paid a heavier price, losing the rights to his suite. He does not think the punishment fits the crime. And he does not believe he was kicked out solely for importing food. He said the U.S.T.A. is using his food infraction as an excuse to lease his suite to someone else.
Levkoff said though he would appear to be a big businessman to most, he is a small fish compared to other suite-holders like a Sunday afternoon recreational player facing a Venus Williams serve.
Im sitting up there with Microsoft, he said. Theres a lot of pressure to get big names in there.
Since the 1999 wletter arrived announcing the $24,000 minimum purchase, Levkoff said the rule was not applied to him during the next two tournaments. Nor was he billed for the pre-tournament food deposit of $18,000, based on three-quarters of the established minimum, he said.
Levkoff, who has attended the U.S. Open since its days at Forest Hills, said he was blind-sided by the U.S.T.A.s refusal to renew his license. There was no call, no warning saying if you dont buy food were not going to renew, he said.
Now, after more than 30 years of attending the U.S. Open, Levkoff said he will never return.
We were marquis sponsors in Forest Hills, he said. But I wouldnt go back. Ill never go back. I told my kids and my customers Im never going back.
Reach Reporter Daniel Massey by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 155.
©2001 Community News Group
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