Thursday, December 28, 2017

2017 Vanishings

At the end of each year, since 2007, I offer a list of places that vanished during the year. These are the ones I covered on the blog, but there were many more (and I've been blogging much less lately). Please add those not included here in the comments. Click the highlighted name to go to the post for more info. And for previous years' vanishings, just scroll down to the bottom.

Greek Corner Coffee Shop, since 1980. Reason for closure unknown--possible sale of building to new owner

Le Train Bleu, since 1980. Closed by Bloomingdale's.

Fong Inn Too, in Chinatown since 1933. Family couldn't keep it going, sold the building.

Leo Design, since 1995 on Bleecker, kicked out, then another 7 years on Hudson, where the rent was too high.

The Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, since 1931. Sold to a Chinese corporation, closed for a renovation into luxury condos.

Chez Jacqueline, since 1982. Reason unknown.

Lenox Lounge, since 1939. Closed by rent hike in 2012, this year it was demolished.

San Loco, Second Avenue, since 1986. The rent was too high.

Love Store, since 1982. This was the last one. Closed by competition from big chain stores.

Francisco's Centro Vasco, since 1979. Closed, then re-opened, and then closed again for good. Business was a struggle.

French Roast, since I don't know when. Reason for closure unknown.

The Cup and Saucer Luncheonette, since 1988. Rent nearly doubled.

Riviera Cafe, since 1969. The cost of doing business in a changing neighborhood was too much.

The Village Voice in print, since 1955. New owner Peter Barbey, media mogul and heir to the billion-dollar fortune behind retail brands like The North Face and Timberland, decided to shut down the print edition.

Clayworks, since 1974. Kicked out by new building owner.

Cafe Orlin, since 1981. The owner got tired.

Reme Restaurant, 40 - 50 years. Reason unknown.

Native Leather, since 1968. Landlord denied a lease renewal. Moved to Carmine Street.

Hong Kong Tailor Jack, since the 1980s. Death of owner.

Mayfair Barber Shop, for 50 - 75 years. Reason for closure unknown.

Matt Umanov Guitars, since 1969. Owner retired.

Moe's Meat Market gallery, since 1977-ish. Owner died, building sold.

HiFi Bar, since 1982 as Brownie's. Reason for closure: The newcomers to the neighborhood aren't interested.

Argo Electronics, for around 40 years. Reason for closure unknown.

Frankel's, since 1890. Moving to Jersey (they might still be in Brooklyn for a bit).

Walter's Antique Clock and Watch Repair, for about 20 years. Forced out by rent hike.

Second Hand Rose Records, since I don't know when, for I don't know why.

Closing December 31:
Noho Star and Temple Bar, since 1985 and 1989
Grassroots Tavern, for 42 years.

Previous Years' Vanishings:
2009: Parts 1, 2, 3, 4
2011: Parts 1, 2, 3, 4

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

That Big Penis

So that big penis mural (or is it a dildo?) on Broome Street doesn't have much longer. Workers are preparing to paint it over today. The ropes and ladders are already in place.

It was painted earlier this week by Swedish artist Carolina Falkholt, as part of the New Allen project (which seems to have something to do with artwashing the Lower East Side for more gentrification).

Today, onlookers gathered in the freezing cold to gaze upon the mural. Many took selfies with it.

News crews interviewed the onlookers, asking their thoughts.

When asked about the negative local response to the mural, one guy answered, "If people can't appreciate the penis, they can't appreciate life."

Another reporter said he could see a face in the network of veins. "See it? Right there? You can see a guy's face. It looks kind of like a clown."

Down the block, guys on the corner were talking. One said, "It's just the same old neighborhood shit."

Another said, "It's vulgar. It's not good for the kids. But I'd like it better if it was a big vagina."

Wednesday, December 20, 2017



I never went to Vynl, but it's been around for 23 years, it's a gay place, and people will miss it.

Vynl was part of a restaurant mini empire by John Dempsey.

No reason for the closure is given on the goodbye note. They only say the place is "retiring."

It will close this Saturday.

Thanks to Ben for the tip

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Neptune Diner: Not Closing

A rumor is floating around (again) that the great Neptune Diner of Astoria is closing. This photo of a supposed shutter note showed up on Twitter with an Astoria hashtag:

But a call to the diner confirmed they are not closing. And a Reddit reader says the sign is a hoax.

UPDATE: A Facebook commenter say, "It's the Neptune Diner in Newburgh, NY that's closing, and that shutter note is from their menu. I know this because I ate there a few days ago. It's a shame... I really liked that place."

The same rumor went floating around a year ago. Is this an annual, end-of-year occurrence? Anyway. The woman who answered the phone at Neptune tells me the menu for their Christmas dinner is wonderful.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Save Lincoln Plaza Cinemas

On Friday, Deadline Hollywood broke the news that the art house Lincoln Plaza Cinemas will be forced to close in January. It opened in 1981. Operator Toby Talbot said that she and her husband, Dan, “did everything we could to ask for the lease to be extended.” But the building owner “is looking to get everything he can. He’s looking to make money.”

On Saturday, the theater’s regular customers were all talking about the news. Ivan, the young assistant manager, stood in the doorway of the small office across from the concession stand and commiserated. The clientele of Lincoln Plaza is made up mostly of local senior citizens--people on fixed incomes--and mostly women. It is, in many ways, a gathering place for midtown and uptown women over 65.

All day Saturday, they gathered around Ivan.

Interior. Movie theater lobby. Day.
The lobby is busy but not overcrowded. People sit on benches and stand in line. They read the paper and do the Times crossword puzzle. Some buy popcorn and rugelach from the concession stand. A wall fountain gurgles, but the basement room is otherwise quiet.

In the doorway of the Manager’s Office, a young man in a blue sweater stands talking in a relaxed way to three older women. LOIS wears black horn-rimmed glasses and a black pageboy haircut. She holds a cane. HILDA is blonde and quiet. NANCY wears a knit winter hat and paces back and forth, fired up about the closing.

NANCY: We need to do something. We need a petition. Everything good is vanishing.

LOIS: This place is my lifeblood. I’m limited (she taps her cane) and this is accessible. I come from the East Side. I come for intelligent movies. And it connects me to the area. After a movie, I eat in the restaurants and shop in the stores nearby. I come every week. It makes you feel secure.

HILDA: It’s comfortable and welcoming. Not like the multiplex. The physical space of a large multiplex? It’s like a warehouse. It’s yucky to go into. But this is a cozy space. It’s not fancy, but it feels good. It’s a neighborhood place.

NANCY (pacing): We need to start a petition. We should plead elder abuse.

HILDA: It really is a connection for seniors. It gets us out of the house.

LOIS: Where else can you go where you’re familiar with the ushers’ faces? They know us. It’s a community. We’re New Yorkers here. I’m not a tourist.

NANCY: Why are they doing this?

IVAN: It’s not about business being bad. It was a landlord decision. The Milsteins own the building. The old man died and the kids took over.

LOIS: They don’t care about people or the quality of life. They just care about the money.

IVAN: The theater owner’s never been about the money. He just wanted people to enjoy the movies.

CORINNE walks in and greets her friend LOIS. They meet here every Saturday. She is blonde and red-cheeked from the cold.

CORINNE: I was shocked when I heard the news. But I was always afraid this day would come. What’ll they put here?

LOIS: Probably a health club.

CORINNE: It’ll sit empty. Like everything else. This is a cultural institution.

HILDA: It’s terrible. Just terrible. Everything else is going downhill in the world. And in this country. This just adds to it.

The USHER, a young man in a gray suit and necktie, stands up and calls out the next movie to the waiting crowd.

USHER: Wonder Wheel! Wonder Wheel! Wonder Wheel!

The women join the crowd and head into the theater to see their movie.

Soon after, the general manager, EWNETU, walks in. He wears a Lincoln Plaza Cinemas cap and complains about the traffic as he takes off his winter coat and settles into his office.

IVAN (to EWNETU): About 50 people came to your door today. Ready to cry. Every 3 to 5 minutes.

EWNETU: This is a bad news for our customers, bad news for our staff, and bad news for the neighborhood. It’s as bad as it can be.

This place is unique. What nobody can replicate is that we handpick every film we show. They have a quality value. We don’t get tempted by box office receipts. We have customers who come regardless of reviews because they trust our judgment. Very familiar faces. Customers come from all over—Philadelphia, New Jersey—we even have one guy from Nebraska.

When I started working here I had an afro. Now I’m bald. (He takes off his cap to prove it, and then puts it back on.) I’ve been here over 25 years.

We lost our lease. Business is not bad. It’s not phenomenal, but it’s good enough for us to stick around. The landlord has a different idea. It seems he doesn’t want to renew the lease. It’s very upsetting.

As a society, we should be more than about money. Landlords included.

Fade to black.

The building that houses the theater is owned by Milstein Properties, run by Howard Milstein. On Saturday evening, they sent a statement about the closing to the New York Times:

“'We are long-term members of this community and have played a central role in nurturing this special theater,' the statement said, adding that 'vital structural work' was needed to repair and waterproof the plaza around the building. 'At the completion of this work, we expect to reopen the space as a cinema that will maintain its cultural legacy far into the future.'"

The Times added, "A Milstein spokesman said in an email that it was yet to be determined if the cinema would reopen with the Talbots in charge."

If it's true that a new cinema will reopen here, it could be a multiplex or, more likely, something like a Nighthawk or Alamo Drafthouse that will attract and cater to a younger, more affluent crowd. But Lincoln Plaza is a bit of old New York--and people like it that way. It's affordable and accessible and it should stay that way.

I started a petition--please sign it and share it.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Lincoln Plaza Cinemas


Terrible news this morning from Deadline: "The Lincoln Plaza Cinemas, a temple of the art house movie scene in New York for 30 years, is at the end of its lease and is scheduled to close in January."

photo: Z-Mation

Co-owner Toby Talbot said "word of the January end date has started to circulate among industry execs and filmmakers, but no notices have been posted alerting customers. She said plans are being made for a formal sendoff on January 21."

Deadline further notes that the Talbots "maintained an old-fashioned zeal for cinema, which governed many of their choices." "We had the luxury of choosing films that we knew were not going to be successful commercially, and we could put them on our screens,” said Toby. “We were able to do what we wanted to do."

Monday, December 11, 2017

Grassroots Tavern


The Grassroots Tavern will close on New Year's Eve. It's been a favorite dive on St. Mark's Place for 42 years and many will miss it (especially this guy).

Last week, Grieve reported that the Grassroots had a new owner--and it didn't look good. Richard Precious has a chain of bars called Ginger Man. As Grieve pointed out, New York magazine said Ginger Man "feels like Euro Disney's vision of the classic Irish watering hole."

Now Grassroots is closing for the same reasons pretty much everything is closing.

“All the sudden, overnight, the rent skyrocketed, so we were put out of business,” one bartender told Bedford & Bowery. And, of course, the building was sold in 2015--ironically to a company called Klosed Properties.

Steven Kachanian, Principal of Klosed, said at the time, "We are thrilled about the long term potential of this asset. The retail rents on this stretch are on the rise."

So St. Mark's is dead -- again.

Post Script: For a little history, see Daytonian in Manhattan's post on 20 St. Mark's Place. He points us to this item from the New York Times in 1932, on the opening of a scruffy predecessor to Grassroots: