Monday, July 1, 2013

Manatus

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.


Previously:
Lunch at Manatus
Bleecker Timeline
Bleecker's Luxe Blitz
Arleen Bowman Boutique

20 comments:

chummy's mum said...

I am, quite literally, tearing up as I read this post Jeremiah. It was only a matter of time. I know nothing can stay forever but... so many memories. I am gutted. :( Please do keep us in the loop.

Bronxboi said...

I don't live in NYC anymore but I loved Manatus. We used to frequent Jeans Patio but when we wanted to go "upscale", we would go to Mannatus. Once Jeans Patio closed that was our new hangout. Man those were good times and when I visit, I would always stop by Manatus for old times sake. I will miss them.

Ken Mac said...

I haven't spoken to Dave at Rebel Rebel, but I wonder how they're doing?


FYI, the waitstaff at Dojo tells me the owner still plans to renovate, but he's keeping the details to himself.

Sybil Bruncheon said...

It's no secret that Sybil bruncheon basically lived at Manatus!! Long before the advent of Facebook, Twitter, or blogging, people passed around the word that they could find me sitting at either my favorite booth in the back or at my window table in the front left. After all my performances for the LGBT Community Center over the 6 year run, the cast would always come for a late night post-show dinner with any audience members that would want to join us. And how many hundreds of breakfasts and lunches with my latest issue of the New Yorker did I spend there??? Greenwich Village is being erased by the so-called "gentrification" that's swallowing up the entire city....NYC is only for Bloomberg's 1% and not for the working people who've kept it running. And the changes that apologists claim have always been the character of NYC through it's history, have never been a vast corporate sameness that is taking over every neighborhood now. When businesses came and went in the "old days", they were replaced with other entrepreneurs and "mom 'n' pops". Not mega-companies like Starbucks, CVS, Duane Reade, or hedge-funder restaurant chains posing as "vintage".... In the Star Trek series, there was a species called the Borg.... sound familiar???

Giovanni said...

Before it was Manatus it was a Jazz bar and restaurant called a Boomers. When Boomers closed, everyone on Bleecker St. was sad and said nothing could replace it. But Manatus did. Back then Everyone said the Village would never be the same. But the Village is like the weather, it always changes, and sometimes, maybe just by accident, it even changes for the better, we will just have to wait and see...

onemorefoldedsunset said...

Only go occasionally but love that place.

Uncle Waltie said...

"Before it was Manatus it was a Jazz bar and restaurant called a Boomers."

"Bboomers" was the only reason I would walk over into that area from the EV. Thanks for the memories. I feel for the people who lost or are losing one of their hangouts.

Anonymous said...

This is not change. This is wholesale corporate hyper gentrification. And the city and especially my beloved greenwich village will never be the same.

Giovanni said...

Did anyone know that Manatus was the original aindian name for amanhattan. Yep, and it just hasnt been the same ever since those Indians left the place. You should have seen all the muskrats and beavers that swam in the creek where Bleecker Street is now, those were the days. The good news is the "old" NY is available in pictures and movies. via NYSonglines.com:

340: Manatus, gay-friendly restaurant with Manhattan's original Indian name. Was Clyde's, with a gay brunch scene; and before that Aldo's, another gay-oriented eatery. (Leonard Bernstein was a frequent diner there.) In the 1970s, the jazz club Boomers was here; Curtis Mayfield can be seen performing here in the 1972 movie Super Fly.

So everyone go rent Superfly and see what was here in. 72, then come back and tell me if that was any improvement over the original and real Island known as Manatus.

Caleo said...

Nice try Giovanni, but if you can't tell the difference between the natural turnover of independently owned businesses that characterized NYC for almost 200 years, and the onslaught of corporate hypergentrification happening now, well, there's no hope for you.You have a right to your opinion, but don't tell me that what is replacing most of the businesses in Manhattan is potentially better than what's been here for decades.

Billsville said...

Ii think Caleo is missing the point and the bigger picture, Giovanni is talking about how Manhattan has always been an island that changes ever since the Indians sold it to the Dutch. Of course every generation only knows the parts of New York they experienced in their brief time here, and misses what they see as the 'original" New York, but nothing here is "original" to NY, it is all man made. The universe doesn't really care what people in NY or anywhere else happen to get sentimental about , its all about what can sustain itself economically. The Villige has changed many times, maybe not due to corporate chains coming in, but that "natural turnover"was often due to someone else with deeper pockets taking over the old storefront or building. Some of he new natural turnover is big national chains with even deeper pockets. But when Boomers was lost to another local business, everyone said the Village would never be the same, yet it was still a great place for those unafraid of the future.

It's all the same basic game, so just enjoy the places you like now, since they will likely soon be gone, and the new places that come out of the ashes will be no doubt someone else's favorite places someday, that they will also lament when those places inevitably vanish into our memories of

Pat said...

@Billsville 10:33am
The Indians were swindled by the Dutch, thought they were leasing Manhattan, not selling. The Dutch were the biggest slave traders, colonialists, mercantile bean counting types on the planet. When the Dutch lost control of Manhattan to the English and New Amsterdam became New York, they just kept right along making quiet money in the background, did not matter whether the island was "officially" Dutch or English, as long as money could be made. New Amsterdam was founded as a trading colony, different purpose than the rest of America, compare Manhattan to the religious colonies of Puritan New England. Anything went here, anything goes here, just accelerated now, not just the Dutch, Chinese, Russians and others ... capitalism on steroids.

Uncle Waltie said...

"...when Boomers was lost to another local business, everyone said the Village would never be the same, yet it was still a great place for those unafraid of the future."

You mean unafraid of the Upper East Side...or Midtown..Chelsea...or Columbus Avenue...or John Varvatos...Blue & Cream etc....well, looks like you won. Enjoy your victory.

Anonymous said...

Just to clarify, Manatus has not been at the Bleecker Street location since 1985. It was still Clyde's then. Manatus did not open until 1991. But it is certainly sad to see what was once the heart of artistic, bohemian, gay, what-have-you NYC become just another trendy locale with its high-end designer stores. It's another SoHo (as if we needed another). Ralph Lauren on both sides of the street. Marc Jacobs. Cynthia Rowley. Juicy Couture. Tommy Hilfiger. Clary Antiques replaced by Coach Leather. There isn't even a deli anymore to pick up a quart of milk at 4 AM or a cup of non-designer coffee. And don't get me started on the stroller-brigades blocking every corner, and heaven forbid they should move to let you pass....or Magnolia Bakery! About the only good thing I could say is....I was happy when the TV series "Sex and The City" was cancelled so we could get Perry Street back.

tina benez said...

Sigh... Manaus, or the Manlytush as my friend Bobby Miller liked to call it, was such an enormous part of our gay downtown nightlife! ;) An evening/ morning was not complete until u ended up at Manatus. Jimmy, Niko, and all the handsome staff were and will always be just the Best and remain in our heart's memories forever :) Thanks for letting us all know about its closing. Thinking of what dress to wear now as I plan on going there asp!!!;D <3

Anonymous said...

So sad, so sad. My partner of 30 years took me to its predecessor, Clyde's, for dinner after my first NY Gay Pride Parade. And we patronized Manatus for years every time we were in Manhattan. Many, many fun breakfasts and dinners with friends.

The Village is virtually unrecognizable to me anymore. A close friend gave up his place on Perry St to take a job in the Midwest. He plans to move back to NYC but I think he will be in for a shock.

Arthur Diovanni said...

Fascinating insights, esp Kidos to that historical account of how the Dutch schemed NYC away from the Indians- never knew that!
I think Manatus restaurant was like a landmark, maybe not as much as Tiffiny's on Sherian Sq, which I think enjoyed more of a reputation along those lines of praise. still, I'm sad

Arthur Diovanni said...

It's a shame that people want to spread disrepute about how the 1% or maybe more likely the 10% of economic political capitors akin to hypergentrification are rhe culprits, when these very same people were on their grinder apps at Starbucks or just the corner, saving their chump change for their gym memberships to increase their sexual appetite, while perrishing tve thought of taking a friend out to a restaurant like Manatus, to spend money on food and drinks. These are the first people to point the finger at someone else, ie..a landlord, but like the Dutch, as long as they can still meet someone, they'll complain about others, but in the end they'll adapt to the same philosophy of business as usual, except now, they feel good about not accepting how they are complicit in this problem of dying local businesses.

laura r. said...

billsville 10:33, new york & other east coast cities were spared the ugly corportate chainstores. the mid west got hyjacked in the 70s & 80s. there is no more mainstreet USA. new york was last, as we had historical societies backed by some wealthy people. the village was unique, the home to artists of all income levels. now thats gone. new york is not about change, its about conforming to the rest of the bland dead middle americana. (or high end mall america). now all of manhattan is looking alike.

Peter Edwards said...

We used to come every year from England and always our first dinner had to be in Manatus, as well enjoying lovely long lunches with our favourite New York diva. What chance the humble diner whilst so many people misguidedly eschew the demon carbs in the hope of resting forever inside the slimmest coffin in the cemetery? Only hope that you New Yorkers can rally and support some surviving eating places such as The Village Den and the Hudson Diner, the latter not specifically a gay venue, but a charming slice of down-to-earth, cannot canngenuinely local West Village life