Thursday, March 13, 2008

Florent

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 wou
ld 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"

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

Florent on Sunday afternoons was wonderful. Sadly, the city is erasing all that's good and replacing it with the ersatz. I have a collection of Florent postcards which mean even more to me now. The destruction of the city does not stop. Jeremiah, you are the eminent chronicler, the keeper of record to this slaughter of a city. One day, people will reference and quote JVNY when they look back, attempting to make sense.

Mike G said...

The utter mallification of Manhattan continues. How heartbreaking. I hope the maps on the walls will find a good and safe home. Ditto for the employees, obviously.

Anonymous said...

Will there be a Bastille Day celebration this year? If so, a drawing of Mike B should replace the one of Marie A, with the appropriate dotted line across the card. Betcha Rudy G would look great as Marie A; he loves those power wigs!

so_chic_darling said...

I can remember dancing on the counter with fabulous drag queens at 4am sometime in the 80s I couldn't tell you exactly what year but it was so much fun!

Todd HellsKitchen said...

I'll try to slip by for it's last Hoorah!

Anonymous said...

sad news indeed....manhattan losses another pillar. without florent and cbgb's what's the point???

markedwinfunk

Romy said...

Hi J, I was at Florent the other night with Penny Arcade (who you should know) and another friend. Years ago we all used to go there a lot after Jackie and it was always fun and full of characters. So while we were there, the other guy--I forget his name-- told us that for the first time ever they have to have security at night. He said that the new crowd that comes now is just so entitled that they make trouble, trouble over things they want not being on the menu, or for being told they're too drunk to be served. He said that in all the years of being there, there was never a problem, the trannies and the people from Jackie and all of the old school nightcrawlers never, ever made trouble. He also said that during the last week they want to have performances based on the stages of grief, i.e. sadness, anger, acceptance...Penny said she wants to do one of those, and you shouldn't miss that if she does.

Tracie said...

SAD ! IVe been going to Florent since 1991 ,post cards, mocca with her big smile and atitude, mussels ,S&M clubs maps ,board of wisdom ,Queens with beads ,My high cair ,for my kids!Bee hives and great food ,I will miss you .Tracie....UK........

bruncheon said...

I've been going to FLORENT since it first opened, and was honored to have had Florent and the staff on my channel J cable TV show back when there were only about 12 stations and they had LETTERS, not numbers! After that, I got even luckier when I got to Emcee two of the gigantic BASTILLE DAY Celebrations for the restaurant...days, (and nights!) that I'll remember, and be grateful for, all of my life!!! The staff, the food, the atmosphere, the incredible guests, and of course, Florent himself!!!! All of it is the stuff that made NYC wonderful for too short a time...and which can NEVER be explained to the junk bond/hedge fund crowd that piles in to the Village to "make the scene", and ends up trampling it under their Philistine hooves. The Disneyfication of Times Square, with its attendant dumpsterizing, Eisnerizing, overcrowding, and flattening of everything one-of-a-kind has spread to the Village, taking Bleecker Street and now the meatpacking district with it!!! Hail Mammon!!!! Anything...EVERYTHING for the ALMIGHTY DOLLAR!!!!

nmf said...

how terribly sad...florent was my staple for years: nothing beat that crowd and food in the wee hours! --i saw so many sunrises when leaving its doors. the comment about the postcards rings true for me as well...i'm away from home for several months now and cannot get back before june; i will be on a frantic search to make sure i have all of those mementos saved somewhere.

the loss of florent is the biggest disappointment for me, but the whole area has been in a downward spiral for years. i can still remember how the streets around the block smelled (when meat was still the business of the area); it wasn't pleasant, but it would cure a hangover, if you could make it to dizzy izzy's (also long gone)--bonus if you made it (1) without blood on your shoes and (2) a good glimpse of a tranny and her date. what a shame.

lolitahazed said...

I was absolutely devastated upon hearing about Florent's closure. Just last week I went there for a very late dinner and as we nonchalantly stuffed our faces with comfort food, I turned to see the notification of its imminent closure.
Absolutely horrible. One of the most unique restaurants I've ever had the pleasure of going to is going to be wiped out to make room for the less original.
This makes me so angry.

Chris said...

Absolutely heartbroken at this news. I used to live in NY but am now back in my hometown of London. Whenever I come back, however, the first place I go to is Florent. For the staff, all of whom seem to remember that I have a child whose first exposure to public drinking and eating took place inside that aluminium temple, from the age of about 2 weeks, even though I have only been in there once every 6 months the last couple of years. I remember all your names, voices and faces. Joseph, may your giggle never leave you. And finally, as a friend of mine, visiting from London, who lived in the area in the late 80's, put it when we came in at 3 in the morning a couple of years ago: "I can't believe it down here now. When I lived in New York the only things you could ever get round here, day or night, were raw meat and a blow job."

Anat said...

After coming to Florent few nights a week, for the food and atmosphere and beautiful bridgit that caught my heart.. :); It will not be NYC as i knew it. after living here for 6 years, coming back for a visit leaves a bitter taste,closing Florent is one of the reasons. Thank god i can still come by and say goodbye.

Anonymous said...

my heart is a little more broken.. i honestly believe our good city is being ruined by greed and misappropriation. it is unstable, unsustainable and insidious! aren't there laws to protect us against 50thousand dollar a month rent? how is it possible to jump like that? what has happened to rent guidelines?? i gather mr. Bloomberg really is more invested in turning our city over to the rich then looking out for the interests of all of our citizens?
Florent was always the place to go for good,reasonable food, off the beaten path,off hours or on. (remember off the beaten path, newyorker's?)
i returned from an amsterdam vacation one year and experiencing culture shock, lost my head and 'lit up', after dinner, inside of Florent. the waiter came over and said , "i thought i smelled something funny over here." and sat down and joined us!then he sent us home with yummy bread pudding!! i miss good ol' NY!! i'm going to miss Florent deeply! THANKS FOR ALL THE MEMORIESXOOXXO fish13

John said...

I left NYC (to move to Montreal)in 2004 -- just as when that condo in Astor Place {the Chase bank lobby} was just being built, and even with that, I was somewhat upset that the parking lot where the smorgasbord of vendors were being displaced. I thought nothing of it at first and thought that it'll only be a few of the developments, and that I can always come back to the EV being the same. But upon my return in January of this year, I no longer recognized this city. A friend tipped me with your blog and this is where I found out that not only that these condos are being built, they are displacing the little shops that I used to frequent, including Florent. I went there last Saturday (Sun. morning at 1 am)to bid farewell, and even the vibe was different. I thought I was in an UES eatery--the crowd was different(I guess they were "yunnies" as you describe them.) And even the attitude of the staff seemed to be also different. They tend to cater to this new crowd, i.e the khaki, stiletto wearing crowd (I was in jeans and shirt and felt like the service was rushed) The food is still excellent but the hospitality and the welcomeness of the place is no longer there. Also had a similar experience at McSorley's (that place is more like a college/frat pub, but that's neither here nor there. I'm afraid I may have to go back to Montreal, or relocate somewhere else.

Mike Zawitkowski said...

There's a nice flowgram of photos telling the story about Florent. Check it out here:
http://beta.flowgram.com/f/p.html#jb6ykmzx2jmxff

Anonymous said...

knxdcdyes florent my have closed...however the crew, the waitstaff,,,kitchen staff...chef michael ....the menu and the ambience is still there...open 24/7 with the same good food....the only thing missing at this time is Florent himself.......hope to see you guys there soon ...it still is a great place to get our comfort food :)

Anonymous said...

i lived around the corner and was going from its opening, and every bastille day. sometimes we would go to hectors instead. they really looked after me at florent over the years, i think i remember the person dancing on the bar. from there i moved to soho, jerry's became my place- guess its the stainless steel, but now i am in tribeca it seems they[jerry's] are moving to chambers
this sanitization creeping right behind me i deeply distressing. i did not move here to live in a walmart I liked seeing the tranny hookers, the blood stained guys neighbours that seemed to have no schedule and did not care

Bombasticus said...

Thanks for this. Hey, I just found out Marions on the Bowery is gone.