The Astor Riviera Cafe closed in 1994, a shuttering that the Times cited as evidence of the de-funkification of Astor Place. The reporter got the scoop about the coming tenant: "Starbucks, the Seattle coffee chain."
That was back when Starbucks still had to be explained. Oh, right, from Seattle. Not long after, a second Starbucks opened at Astor Place (and a third in the now-defunct Barnes & Noble). In a miraculous turn of events, that second Starbucks is closed.
photo from EV Grieve
But, as the sign above attests ("across the way"), a Starbucks yet remains at Astor Place. The big one. The one that replaced the Riviera. When it opened in 1995, it was the largest in Manhattan and maybe the whole country. It represented a tipping point--a point of no return from which we may actually be returning at last.
It's been the site of several Reverend Billy protests--and arrests. It is reviled by many and inexplicably loved by others.
The Riviera diner, on the other hand, is like a ghost. I can't find a single photograph of it. All I could uncover was this screenshot from the film Downtown 81. Here, Jean-Michel Basquiat stands in front of a sign that says: COMING SOON THE REVIERA [sic] RESTAURANT AND COFFEE SHOP.
A deeply distant time. Since then, the Riviera came and went. Astor Place got not just three Starbucks, but a K-Mart, a Walgreens, a David Barton, a Cemusa newsstand, and a luxury glass tower (that wiped out the parking lot and its porn peddler).
Today, two of those Starbucks have vanished. How long do we have to wait before the rest of it goes?
If you have a memory of the Riviera, or a link to a photo, please share.