Our Firm

Helbraun Levey is the premier law firm in New York City for bars, restaurants, hotels, chefs and all food and beverage outlets. We represent first time entrepreneurs, multi-unit operators, hotel F&B management groups, general managers, chefs, developers and all other industry folks. There are many law firms that dabble in the hospitality industry, but none of them have our experience or our commitment to New York City’s hospitality professionals.

As the Cannabis Industry emerges in New York, Helbraun Levey is at the forefront of the movement and has the people and know-how to get our clients cultivating, processing, distributing and opening recreational marijuana dispensaries throughout the entire state.

Helbraun Levey Firm

Our Approach

The firm was founded by David Helbraun, who has over thirty years in the restaurant business including being a former owner of a Manhattan based cafe chain called Pyramid Coffee Company. Helbraun Levey takes the customer service lessons David learned from working in the hospitality industry and applies them to our practice.  Our firm’s hallmark traits include warm, responsive customer service, in-depth industry knowledge and a welcoming firm culture.

We also understand the fast pace of the industry so we return phone calls and emails promptly, complete our work quickly and effectively, and we are always available to advise our clients on all aspects of operating a bar restaurant or cannabis business in New York.  It is the mission of our firm to provide unparalleled legal and licensing services to the hospitality and cannabis industries.

 

Our Team

David Helbraun

David Helbraun

Founding Partner & Chairman david@helbraunlevey.com

David Helbraun is the Founding Partner and Chairman of the firm. Prior to founding the firm, David opened and owned a multi-unit coffee bar/cafe company based in Manhattan. He has been an entrepreneur his entire life and has been running successful businesses for the past 20 years in New York City.

David currently serves as the Chair of the Hospitality Law Committee of the NYC Bar Association, an industry group comprised of over 40 of New York City’s top hospitality attorneys who regularly comment on the laws and regulations affecting the industry.  David is also a board member of the NYC Food & Beverage Hospitality Council, an alliance of over 30 NYC industry professionals and businesses.

David also proudly serves as a board member of Drive Change, a non-profit that runs the food truck Snow Day, operated by formerly incarcerated young people who are trained in hospitality as a way to reintegrate them to the work force.  David is admitted to practice in New York.

Joseph Levey

Joseph Levey

Founding Partner joseph@helbraunlevey.com

Joseph is a Founding Partner of the firm and oversees all New York State Liquor Authority and other licensing matters for the firm. Joseph’s primary area of expertise is New York State Alcohol Beverage Control Law and he has extensive experience practicing before the New York State Liquor Authority with regard to various licensing and disciplinary matters. He regularly attends local Community Board meetings on behalf of the firm’s clients and has developed a stellar reputation as a well-prepared and knowledgeable advocate.

Joseph proudly serves on the Executive Board of the New York State Restaurant Association, the Board of The American Institute of Food and Wine and is admitted to practice in New York and New Jersey.

Lee N. Jacobs

Lee N. Jacobs

Co-Chair - Litigation and Employment Groups lee@helbraunlevey.com

Lee is Co-Chair of the firm’s Litigation and Employment Practices Group. He is a seasoned trial attorney and litigator representing a wide variety of individual and corporate clients in complex matters in both state and federal court. Lee has spent his career helping individuals and businesses navigate the difficult waters of employment, business and personal litigation. In addition to counseling his clients with respect to their business and litigation needs, Lee has vast experience in representing business and individuals at every phase of federal and state prosecutions and governmental investigations.

Lee also takes special care to teach and mentor younger attorneys and is a full Adjunct Professor of Law at Brooklyn Law School. He teaches an advanced course focusing on trial advocacy, evidence and procedure. He also serves as a faculty advisor to the school’s Moot Court Honor Society’s Trial Advocacy Division and regularly coaches, students and teams to local, regional and national championships. He has been designated a New York Super Lawyer Rising Star every year from 2012 to present.

Lee received a B.A. and M.S. from the George Washington University and his J.D. from Brooklyn Law School. He is admitted to practice law in New York, New Jersey and the United States District Courts for the Southern District of New York, the Eastern District of New York, and the District of New Jersey.

Robert Ontell

Robert Ontell

Co-Chair - Litigation and Employment Groups rob@helbraunlevey.com

Robert is Co-Chair of the firm’s Litigation and Employment Groups. Rob is a veteran of representing the interests of clients in the hospitality industry. He counsels individual and corporate clients through every phase of litigation in federal and state court, as well as various administrative proceedings. He focuses his practice on complex state and federal commercial and business litigation matters.

Prior to Helbraun Levey, Rob developed a broad background as a litigator at a national law firm where he practiced commercial litigation for clients both large and small. He has always had a fondness for the hospitality industry, and it was there that Rob began building a practice catering to hospitality client needs.

Rob received a B.B.A. from the University of Michigan, Steven M. Ross School of Business, and his J.D. from Brooklyn Law School.  He is admitted to practice law in New York, New Jersey, and the United States District Courts for the Southern District of New York, the Eastern District of New York, and the District of New Jersey. Rob has been designated a New York Super Lawyer Rising Star every year from 2014 to present.  He is a member of the James Beard Foundation, a nonprofit organization that offers events and programs designed to educate, inspire and foster a deeper understanding of America’s culinary culture.

Andrew P. Castano

Andrew P. Castano

Chair - Real Estate Group andrew.castano@helbraunlevey.com

Andrew is Co-Chair of the firm’s Corporate Group. He reviews, drafts, and edits various purchase and sale agreements, such as asset purchase agreements, stock purchase agreements, and membership interest purchase agreements. Andrew also represents clients in scores of due diligence investigations during investment transactions and buy and sell agreements.  In addition, Andrew represents and advises clients on drafting and negotiating commercial retail leases, license agreements and other real estate transactional documents.

Since joining the firm in 2015, he has served as the lead attorney for hundreds of purchase/sale agreements and commercial leases.  Andrew was selected as a New York Rising Star for 2017 and 2018 by Super Lawyers in the area of Business/Corporate Law.

Andrew received a B.A. in Political Science in 2011 from Albright College.  Andrew received his J.D. from Delaware Law School in 2014, graduating cum laude. While in law school, he was the Internal Managing Editor of the Delaware Journal of Corporate Law. Andrew is also currently enrolled at New York University and is obtaining his Masters in Real Estate Finance and Investment.

Andrew is also a strong believer in pro bono work. He proudly serves as Chair of the firm’s Pro Bono Committee and is Advisory Counsel to the Firefighters & EMS Foundation and the International Columbia Association. Outside the firm, Andrew dedicates his time to sports, traveling and discussing recipes with friends and family.

Andrew is admitted to practice law in New York and New Jersey

Andrew Fine

Andrew Fine

Chair - Corporate Group andrew.fine@helbraunlevey.com

Andrew is co-Chair of the firm’s Corporate Group. Andrew reviews, drafts, and negotiates various agreements on behalf of clients, including operating agreements, partnership agreements, investor agreements, employment agreements, contractor agreements, hotel management agreements, and confidentiality agreements. He advises clients on all corporate matters from their early startup phase through their expansion phase.

Andrew received a B.A. in Law & Policy and Philosophy from Dickinson College in 2013, and graduated cum laude from Brooklyn Law School in 2016. While in law school, Andrew served as Executive Notes & Comments Editor of Brooklyn Journal of Corporate, Commercial and Financial Law, and competed as a national team member of the Moot Court Honor Society’s Trial Division.

Outside the office, Andrew is an avid distance runner and enjoys exploring his home borough of Brooklyn in search of new restaurants. He also currently serves as secretary of the New York City Bar Association’s Hospitality Law Committee.

Andrew is admitted to practice in New York.

Ryan Bogatz

Ryan Bogatz

Associate Attorney ryan.bogatz@helbraunlevey.com

Ryan is an Associate Attorney in the firm’s Real Estate and Litigation groups. Ryan reviews, drafts, edits, and negotiates various agreements including asset purchase agreements, membership interest purchase agreements, and stock purchase agreements. As a member of the Real Estate Division, Ryan reviews, negotiates, and advises clients on commercial retail leases, subleases, assignments, modifications, license agreements, and other real estate documents.

Ryan began working at Helbraun & Levey in the summer of 2016 as a summer associate. He is a graduate of Fordham University School of Law. While at Fordham, Ryan received specializations in Business and Financial Law and Intellectual Property and Information Law. Before beginning at the firm, he held many positions throughout the collegiate and professional sports industries. Among these, he worked for the compliance office of the University of Florida athletic department and also interned for the legal department of the New Jersey Devils and Prudential Center.

Ryan is a proud graduate of the University of Florida, receiving both a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Sport Management. Outside the firm, he enjoys exploring the city’s many bars and restaurants, travelling, and watching sports.

Ryan is admitted to practice law in New York.

Mitchell Littman

Mitchell Littman

Mitchell brings decades of sophisticated corporate law experience to Helbraun Levey serving as “of counsel” to the firm. He is a founding partner of Littman Krooks LLP and heads its corporate and securities department. Throughout his career, Mitchell has represented clients in hundreds of private and public securities offerings, mergers and acquisitions, and corporate transactions. He provides a wide range of services to the hospitality industry, including equity and debt financings, joint venture, management and licensing deals, mergers and acquisitions, and, public market exits.

Mitchell is a member of the New York City Bar Association Hospitality Committee and the New York County Lawyers Association Committees on SEC and Corporations. He is also an Adjunct Professor of Law at Brooklyn Law School, teaching corporate law courses.

Megan Shaw

Megan Shaw

Megan is a law clerk with the Litigation and Employment Groups. Since starting at the firm in the summer of 2016, she has been responsible for drafting pleadings and various trial documents, as well as helping to develop the firm’s Employment Compliance Review. Megan is thrilled to have the opportunity to work so closely with passionate clients in the hospitality industry since she grew up waiting tables in her family’s restaurants in Texas.

Megan is a graduate of Brooklyn Law School, where she served as the President of the Moot Court Honor Society and contributed as an Articles Editor for the Brooklyn Law Review. Megan graduated from Washington & Lee University in 2013, and received a B.A. in Journalism & Mass Communication and Psychology.

Shimpei Kawasaki

Shimpei Kawasaki

Shimpei is an associate attorney with Helbraun Levey. Prior to joining the firm, he provided legal assistance on a contractual basis to top law firms in NYC for antitrust litigations involving Japanese corporations. In addition to his legal experience, Shimpei has extensive knowledge of the hospitality industry in Japan. His first job was at a busy Izakaya-style franchise restaurant in Gunma-ken, Japan where he worked as a chef. In 2009, Shimpei and his brother opened their first restaurant “Imari” in the same building where their late grandmother also ran her own restaurant in the 70s. Shimpei has experience in establishing yakitori, izakaya, kaiseki, oyster bar, burger, and steakhouse restaurants as well as bars. He is fluent in Japanese and is well versed in the business culture of Japan.

Here at the firm, Shimpei is responsible for the New York State Liquor Authority, litigation and corporate matters. He also serves as the liaison between the firm’s Japanese speaking clients and the multifaceted departments within the firm.

When Shimpei is not in the office, he enjoys cooking for his wife and walking his dog. When he is not cooking for his wife or walking his dog, he trains in Muay Thai.

Luke Schram

Luke Schram

Cannabis Advisor

Luke specializes in drug policy and is the current Chair of the Special Committee on Drugs and the Law of the New York City Bar Association. His work at the Drugs and the Law Committee has been focused on New York State’s movement towards the regulation of cannabis. Luke is also an experienced litigator in criminal and civil matters and has been named a Rising Star by Super Lawyers in 2017 and 2018. Luke is licensed to practice law in the State of New York.

Jason Foscolo

Jason Foscolo

Jason serves as the Principal of The Food Law Firm and serves as “Of Counsel” to Helbraun Levey. Jason’s practice covers labeling for food and cannabis products, farm lease agreements, private label agreements and co-packing agreements

Jason has worked extensively with cannibidiol (CBD) products and has provided comprehensive, nuanced guidance on:

  • the marketing and labeling of products containing CBD.
  • Production contracts with agricultural producers for raw CBD materials.
  • The co-pack manufacturing of consumables containing CBD.
  • Trademarking strategies for CBD products.”

With Jason joining the team, we continue to expand our firm’s reach to further aspects of the food, beverage, and cannabis industries.

Dana Lapan

Dana Lapan

Director - Licensing Group dana@helbraunlevey.com

Dana is the Director of Licensing of the firm’s Licensing Group. Dana has worked in all facets of the New York restaurant industry. Prior to joining the firm, she worked at Avroko and then as a hospitality consultant where she formulated Department of Health plans, worked with clients on all stages of a restaurant opening from construction and buildout, compliance and permitting, to staff hiring and training. She has also executed restaurant pop-ups and food festivals throughout the country. Additionally, Dana has set up back-office systems, improved restaurant operations, and consulted on marketing and branding practices for a variety of restaurant concepts and products.

Here at the firm, Dana works with clients through every step of the Liquor Licensing process from liaising with community boards, block associations and other residential organizations, to preparing applications for New York City Community Boards and the New York State Liquor Authority. She also works closely with the Permitting Unit at the New York State Liquor Authority, helping to secure permits for events big and small within the State.

A University of Arizona and Institute of Culinary Education graduate and an avid diner, Dana can be found at any number of restaurants throughout the city, because when she’s not working in the industry, she’s living it.

Heather Kirk

Heather Kirk

Senior Licensing Clerk heather@helbraunlevey.com

Heather is a Licensing Clerk at Helbraun Levey. Heather began her career at the firm as the receptionist and is now an integral member of the licensing team. Heather is responsible for liquor license renewal applications, sidewalk cafe applications, department of health applications, and other license applications. Heather often makes appearances at Community Board meetings on behalf of our clients.

Heather spent over 6 years working in the hospitality industry; bartending and serving at some of the finest restaurants and bars in Charlotte before relocating to New York City. She has a passion for both the culinary and pastry arts, and when she is not out exploring the city’s amazing food scene, she is at home creating delicious dishes of her own.

Jake Trissler

Jake Trissler

Jake joined Helbraun Levey in 2018 as part of the licensing group. Here, Jake is responsible for liquor license renewals, sidewalk cafe applications, and Department of Health applications, among others.

Jake is part of the firm’s Carbon Footprint Committee, working to make the firm even more environmentally friendly and sustainable. Outside of the office, Jake has been practicing yoga and pilates for over 10 years. He also enjoys traveling, skiing, reading and eating all of the vegan desserts he can find.

Allison Brand

Allison Brand

Billing Supervisor allison@helbraunlevey.com

Allison is the Billing Supervisor at Helbraun Levey. She joined the firm as the receptionist before she designed her current position and transitioned to billing.

Allison is responsible for preparing retainer agreements, sending invoices, managing accounts receivables, and coordinating out of office events. When Allison is not working, she enjoys biking around the city and eating dumplings and desserts along the way.

Adriana Dragusha

Adriana Dragusha

Adriana is the receptionist at the firm and is responsible for receiving and greeting guests, providing administrative support, and managing the day to day needs of the office.

Prior to joining Helbraun Levey in 2017, Adriana learned about the hospitality industry first-hand by working as a hostess for Harry’s Cafe & The Whitby Hotel in New York for over 3 years. In her spare time, Adriana enjoys running, cycling, and trying new restaurants throughout New York City.

Rosemary Crean

Rosemary Crean

Rosie is a law clerk for the firm’s litigation group. Prior to joining the firm, she worked in real estate development in Asbury Park, New Jersey where she helped revitalize the downtown community through hospitality and the arts. After leaving Asbury Park, Rosie worked in commercial hospitality real estate sales in NYC before attending Pace Law School, where she is currently a second year law student.  Rosie is passionate about the hospitality industry which she attributes to having worked in the restaurant business since she was young. Rosie graduated from the University of Connecticut in 2012 with a B.A. in Political Science and also ran for their Women’s Track & Field team.