A year ago, I made the mistake of getting excited about Jones Street in Greenwich Village. It seemed like a well-kept secret, an untouched one-block oasis of old New York with its two record stores, antique butcher shop, and 30-year-old jazz cafe. I spoke too soon.
Recently, we heard from Stupefaction that its Strider Records will be closing. And now we hear that Caffe Vivaldi is being forced to shutter--Steve Croman is the new landlord and is tripling the rent, according to this petition.
It seems we're in the midst of an epidemic, where landlords are jacking up the rents on old-school Italian joints (Vivaldi by way of Pakistan). First we heard that 30-something Rocky's is being booted so the Balaboosta people can take over, then Eater reported the shameful news that 90-year-old Rocco's rent is being hiked so another group of new foodies can expand their mini empire (with $125 tasting menus), and now Vivaldi.
The Village Voice put Steve Croman on their 10 Worst Landlords List of 2008 and outlined his typical tactics: "badgering phone calls, endless lawsuits, and leaning on already hard-pressed tenants." There's a Stop Croman Coalition of his tenants and a "Croman Realty Sucks" blog--but both seem to be defunct since 2009.
Caffe Vivaldi is one of those places I've been meaning to get to for a long time. They have live music 7 days a week and no cover charge. Monday is Open Mic Night. They serve things like ravioli. They have been featured in films by Woody Allen and Al Pacino.
Here's how the restaurant's owners describe the place: "Our old wooden chairs have a history and are mostly positioned in approximately the same spot where they were when they first seated the likes of Andy Warhol, Al Pacino, Woody Allen, Bette Midler, John Cusack, Rob Reiner, Joseph Brodsky and many others. We have a fireplace and it is usually lit on cold evenings."
L.D. at Vivaldi in Whatever Works
Against all odds, the Friends of Caffe Vivaldi have started a petition to save the restaurant. They write:
"There is a place in New York, that is 1/3 real and 2/3 magical and it is about to disappear... unless we do something now. For 30 years it has nurtured artists writers, poets, but mostly musicians. It has a new landlord and he wants to triple the rent. We cannot fight him; he is too strong. The only way forward is to appeal to his better side and reason with him not to snuff the life out of this cherished haven of hope and encouragement for young artists. Our aim to urge our landlord not to increase our rent to an amount we can never come up with in 685 sq ft of space. We want to be fair to him and want him to be fair to us: All we are asking is that he charge us the fair market rent."
Croman's 9300 Realty already has the Vivaldi space up for rent on its website. They're asking $19,995 a month.