I am heartbroken to have to share the news that the fight to save Cafe Edison has not been successful.
Their last day of business will be this Sunday, December 21. They say they'll stay open that night "until the last person leaves."
photo: Tim Schreier
I just spoke to Jordan Strohl, grandson and son and of the owners. He told me that the owner of the hotel, Gerald Barad, is not responding at this point and they have no choice but to shut down. "People are walking out of here crying," he said of his customers, who have been hearing the news over dinner tonight. He said that the city government tried its best, but in the end, "There's nothing they can legally do. We are out of options."
His family is optimistic that they will find a new space. "We lost the fight," he said, "but we did not lose the battle. Six weeks ago, we would have just shut down, but the campaign to Save Cafe Edison re-inspired my family. We are committed to reopening in a new space, and to bringing our food and our family warmth back to the city. A thousand thank-yous to everyone. We cannot say thank you enough."
He adds, "This is not goodbye. It's see you later."
It's true that the City can do nothing legally to protect Cafe Edison--or any other small business. And that's why we must change the laws. Without legislation to protect our cultural landmarks, we are powerless to preserve them. They will keep vanishing. Even when we break our necks to save them.
Thank you to everyone who participated in the fight. You all made a difference over these past weeks. And, yes, we will have one last Lunch Mob.
Here's how it happened:
11/6: Thanks to two tipsters, I broke the news here about Cafe Edison's forced closure. The story spread far and wide, and many followed up, from the New York Times to the BBC. Jason Bratton launched a petition, now with nearly 10,000 signatures. The #SaveCafeEdison hashtag appeared on Twitter.
11/8: First Lunch Mob at the coffee shop--600 supporters showed up. People brought signs and showed the city that we were serious. The mob was covered by the press, including NBC News. That night I started the Save Cafe Edison Facebook group--now with nearly 600 members, including a core group of creative, active people who regularly share ideas and make things happen.
11/14: Thanks to group member Kathleen Vestuto for reaching out, we got a letter of support from Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, asking landlord Gerald Barad to give Cafe Edison a lease.
11/15 and 11/16: We held two more Lunch Mobs. Group member Tom Klem got magicians from the famous Magicians Table to entertain diners on Saturday. On Sunday, the Bergen County Players presented scenes from Neil Simon’s “45 Seconds from Broadway." Tony and Emmy Award-winning producer and documentary filmmaker Dori Berinstein began filming a documentary about Cafe Edison and the fight to save it.
11/18: New York State Senator Brad Hoylman wrote a letter asking landlord Gerald Barad to give Cafe Edison a lease.
11/19: Manhattan District 3 Council Member Corey Johnson got in the fight with a letter to Barad and a pledge of support to Cafe Edison.
11/20: We held a Dinner Mob with a klezmer band arranged by Save Cafe Edison group member and klezmer professional Eve Sicular.
11/24: NEWSical the Musical's producers made a video in support of Cafe Edison, starring "Liza Minnelli" and "Larry King."
11/25: The story went global on BBC radio.
11/29: We held a Small Business Saturday Lunch Mob with Liza and Larry.
12/2: Assemblyman Richard Gottfried sent a letter to landlord Gerald Barad.
12/5: Mayor Bill de Blasio joined the fight to Save Cafe Edison and promised that his team would do "everything it can."
12/7: We staged a rally and press conference at Cafe Edison with community members, politicians, and holiday carolers. Rousing speeches were made. The story went global on NPR's "All Things Considered." Ira Glass, from This American Life, started a communal letter to Hotel Edison's owner Gerald Barad, asking him to keep the Cafe Edison.