While chatting with a shopkeeper on Bleecker Street, I heard that the great Manatus diner is being pushed out. Said the shopkeeper, "Manatus has lost their lease. The space has already been rented out for a Calvin Klein store. Not sure how long they have left. Maybe a month."
Don't panic yet. That was a month ago now, and while I've tried to get something definitive, I have been unable to confirm the information. One person I spoke to at Manatus hesitated to answer, eventually saying, "Eh, well, not tomorrow, maybe in a year."
We've worried about Manatus for awhile. It's been around for decades--since at least 1985. They have long catered to a gay clientele, mostly older men, locals who eat in diners. It's also one of the last affordable places to dine in that part of town. (Read my previous post.)
At lunch the men come walking in, some limping and some using canes, singly or in couples. They're greeted by the hostess with kisses of hello. They are known. They have their favorite tables. One sits at the bar and takes a book out of his Strand shopping bag. He orders a cup of coffee and begins to read, to pass the time not alone. Now and then he gets up to stretch his legs. He helps himself to the mints. Another man sits by himself and sips a bowl of soup. A third butters his roll and reads the Post.
The radio plays Air Supply and Journey.
At dinnertime, a butch woman comes in to get her supper to go, dry cleaning slung over her shoulder, hanging out to chat a bit. An elderly man shuffles in and hands the manager some money, saying, "I owe you two dollars," before turning to leave.
It all feels steady and solid, but the tide of change is at the door. Small businesses on the block have begun to vanish.
The westernmost end of Bleecker Street has been hyper-gentrifying like wildfire for the past few years. In August 2011, I outlined the street's timeline of luxurification, and noted that this block, the western side of Bleecker between 10th and Christopher, "is looking very vulnerable." Then upscale perfumer Jo Malone moved in. That was, perhaps, the tipping point.
I went by recently and found that three more businesses on this side of the block have closed. From left to right: There's a For Lease sign in Pinky Otto (closed) and the Grand Cleaners (closed). The listing gives no asking rent, but you can bet it's in the tens of thousands. These spaces are, after all, "Situated on Manhattan’s hottest fashion corridor."
Your Neighborhood Office postal shop is safe, with a lease for the next 10 years. The Fabuless boutique has closed--the manager said the rent was hiked. Next, Verve looks okay, but they had a "Love NYC? Shop Small" sign in the window. Then it's Manatus, Marc and Max lingerie, and the Village Apothecary, which has been in business since 1983 and appears to be safe.
The shopkeeper I spoke to also claimed that, on the southwest corner of Bleecker and Christopher, the Spa Belles nail salon will become a Tiffany's. The nail salon did not confirm this information.
So, whether it's horrible truth or wild rumor, whether it's tomorrow or a year from now, go to Manatus. Because you never know. Their building is owned by Lloyd Goldman’s BLDG Management, who has been on a "pricey buying spree" lately.
Lunch at Manatus
Bleecker's Luxe Blitz
Arleen Bowman Boutique