After weeks of speculation, it's official: Florent will close on June 29. Confirmed by The New York Post, the closure comes on Gay Pride Day, though Florent's lease ends on March 31, at which time rent on the spot will jump from $6,000 to $50,000 per month.
all pics: my flickr
Many credit, or blame, Florent Morellet for launching the current super-luxurification of the Meatpacking District. It's a distinction he gives to himself, saying in The Times that his diner brought "the first bit of gentrification to the area.'' And Gawker, in their satirical history of Meatpacking, calls it "the root of the poisonous tree from whence springs all evil."
But it wasn't until Keith McNally's faux-Parisian Pastis moved in, almost 15 years after Florent, that the current slaughter of Meatpacking ensued.
During those 15 years, blood and other bodily fluids continued to flow freely on the cobblestoned streets. Meatpacking in the 1990s still had Jackie 60, the Clit Club, the Vault, the Lure...but it was vulnerable. Metromix put it aptly (if a bit transphobically) when they wrote, "If it weren't for Pastis, the Meatpacking District would still be an abandoned line of butcher shops littered with friendly trannies instead of today's trendy meet-market littered with, well, tranny lookalikes."
It is appropriate that Florent will close on Gay Pride since it was born from gay defiance, springing from the SM leather bars that once graced (and greased) the formerly gritty neighborhood. “Maybe it was 1978 or ’79 or ’81," Morellet told The Villager, "and I was coming from the Anvil, or the Mineshaft, or someplace...It was morning, and I went into the R&L diner for breakfast. I immediately loved the place.” In 1984, when the R&L went up for sale, Morellet bought it, leaving the old diner intact because he liked its Hopperesque feeling.
a recent note from Florent: is he hopeful when he writes, "real estate goes down, nyc survives"?
Saying goodbye to Florent most likely means saying goodbye to the R&L as well. Who but someone Furstenberg-sized can afford $50,000 per month? It was the site of a speakeasy in the 1920s and became the R&L in the 1930s. A place where longshoremen and meatpackers would dine at night, in the 1950s they called it "Eatem and Beatem," according to the Chicago Sun, "because they would zip in and out around 3 in the morning." The chrome sign still stands as much of the original R&L remains.
Whatever your feelings about Florent and its place in history, it's worth taking a visit if only because it is a part of New York history--a part that will soon be wiped off the map.
"no hard feelings"