This post originally appeared on Eater, but I repeat it here because I think it bears repeating.
Very soon the venerable Minetta Tavern will close and fall into the hands of Keith McNally, the man behind Pastis and Balthazar, often blamed/credited with turning the Meatpacking District into "MePa." Last week I went into Minetta for a final meal and cocktail and talked with owner Taka Becovic who told me he plans to close "May 1...or maybe a couple days later." That's not May 6, as a bartender told Grub Street, so if you want to be sure you get a chance to say goodbye, you'd better go by May Day.
Originally from Montenegro, near Albania, Taka first worked as a busboy at the Minetta Tavern. Thirteen years ago, he bought the place and kept every inch of it intact, including the Italian menu, which will change to French bistro food under McNally.
“I like old-fashioned places,” Taka said, “family-style Italian.” The music he had playing was Frank Sinatra, Keely Smith, Eydie Gorme, the music that must have been loved by the first owner, Eddie “Minetta” Sieveri, a fan of boxers, wrestlers, and starlets.
Sieveri returned to the Tavern every year for his birthday until his death. When the landlord raised the rent too high for Taka, Sieveri’s son tried to buy the place, but it was out of his reach too.
taka becovic looks out to the street
“I’ve got a regular customer in his 80s,” Taka told me, “When he heard I was selling he asked, How much do you need? A million? Two million? He was ready to give it to me.” Taka didn't disclose the rent his landlord was asking for, but he did bemoan the fact that rents around there are "all $50,000 a month and up," so we can just imagine the sum.
When I asked Taka what his hopes are for the future of the Minetta Tavern, he looked off into the distance. “It’s very hard,” he said, to think of saying goodbye. He hopes McNally won’t change the place too much. The wooden bar, with its stained-glass shelving, dates back to the Tavern’s opening in 1937. The walls are covered with priceless art and photographs. Taka’s favorite is the painting of Village legend Joe Gould, but he won’t be taking it with him. McNally bought the whole lot, every last item, down to the hand-cut silhouettes, made by a German artist, that trim the top of the bar.