Thursday, July 31, 2014

More at 12th and University

The last business to remain open in the former Bowlmor building on 12th and University has closed, leaving no more. University Pita has shuttered.

In their goodbye note, they say they are not relocating.

Around the corner, similarly displaced Japonica is relocating. Their plywood is up with a "coming soon" banner.

Meanwhile, back at Bowlmor, flowers have appeared in the shuttered gate, along with a note, "In loving memory of Marky B."

Mark Braunreuther was Bowlmor's greeter for 16 years. In the Times recently, Jo Certo wrote a memorial goodbye to him, calling him a "benevolent minder, gentleman greeter, peacekeeper on the rowdy corner" and "the mayor of University Place."

Now that every single one of the many small businesses in this building have been pushed out--from Bowlmor to Stromboli Pizza--the luxury condo construction can begin. Already, the hardhats are revving their engines.

University Stationery

Chat 'N Chew

As neighborhood-changing high-end restaurants are shuttering due to high rents that they themselves helped to elevate, the trendy little places that followed in their wake will inevitably follow in their demise.

In 1994, the trailer-park, white-trash, small-town theme restaurant Chat 'N Chew opened right across E. 16th street from Union Square Cafe, which opened in 1985. Union Square Cafe is shuttering--and it looks like Chat 'N Chew is already down for the count.

Reader Ben writes in, "They closed down for 'renovations' a year or two ago and re-opened with an updated menu and look. Some of the old comfort food was still on the menu but much had been replaced with more upscale, trendy items. They were trying for a new and different crowd. It didn't work. I guess Sunday was the last day because Monday the paper went up on the windows. There is no sign or any indication that the space will re-open or if it's becoming something else."

The restaurant's website is still up.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

From Vinyl to Dunkin'

Recently we saw the former Bleecker St. Records turn into a Starbucks. This week, the former Norman's Sound and Vision record shop has become a Dunkin' Donuts. Monday was their grand opening.

Located on Third Avenue between 7th and St. Mark's, Norman's closed in 2012. The rent was too damn high. "The landlords pushed us out here," said the owner in a video interview, referring to Williamsburg, where Norman's has since moved.

According to the Center for an Urban Future's 2013 "State of the Chains" report, Dunkin Donuts is New York's most plentiful:

"For the sixth consecutive year, Dunkin Donuts tops our list as the largest national retailer in New York City, with a total of 515 stores. Over the past year, Dunkin Donuts had a net increase of 39 stores in the city (an 8 percent gain)."

Add one more to the growing pile.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Lunch at El Quijote

Starting this week, I'm trying my hand at a weekly column over at Metro NY on any and all things New York City. For my first essay, it's lunchtime at El Quijote. Here are the first few paragraphs, with photos...

Update: Metro was hit with a virus--I've temporarily removed the link until it's fixed.

Lunchtime at El Quijote is a quiet affair. Classical music plays overhead, a series of waltzes, giving you space to hear yourself think. Patrons are gray-haired, hushed, some of them in singles, sitting with white napkins on their laps, not reading, just sitting. No one, not even once, takes out a cell phone. They sit without anxiety, self-contained.

The waiter, dressed in his admiral's jacket, glides silently among the tables, bearing platters of meat and fish, cocktails, and salads. Bread arrives in a wire basket adorned with a paper doily.

At the far end of the dining room, mounted on a wall painted with sky, a group of windmills slowly turn. The dreary ceiling, scalloped in stucco, brazenly shows its age, untroubled by the dark spots and cracks. Dim chandeliers hang by threads. The oxblood booths wear their frayed shoulders with a shrug of acceptance.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Rodeo Bar


By now, most of you know that Rodeo Bar was closing. It shuttered yesterday, after nearly 30 years on 3rd Avenue.

In a farewell profile to the popular honky-tonk, the Times writes today that the closure came "after 27 years of holding out, Alamo style, against rising rents and marching chain stores."

I had never heard of Rodeo Bar until some readers wrote in, weeks ago, to tell me about the closure. I'm really not the Urban Cowboy type.

Recently, I went for the first time, for lunch, which is probably not exactly prime-time to go. It was quiet. I had a burger. While a western-style bar is not the sort of place I generally frequent, Rodeo was a survivor, a long-lasting small business standing since 1987 against the corporatization of the city, and that's something.

It is yet another casualty of New York's massive, homogenizing shift.

From the Times:

"The owner, Mitch Pollak, said changes in the neighborhood had made him decide to close. When he bought the Rodeo Bar in 1996, his monthly payments for rent and insurance averaged $10,000, he said; today they amount to almost $50,000. Chains occupied many of the neighboring storefronts, including 7-Eleven, Dunkin’ Donuts, Subway, Starbucks and Duane Reade Express, and they made the block feel sterile, Mr. Pollak said."

"Young customers have also drifted off in recent years to new, local bars that offer sports on flatscreens, rather than honky-tonk tunes and Texas beer. 'The neighborhood changed a lot,' said Mr. Pollak, 55. 'We didn’t change at all.'"

Friday, July 25, 2014

Ding Dong Lounge


The Ding Dong Lounge, a 21st-century dive bar up by Columbia, is closing.

Ding Dong DJ Linda Rizzo writes in: "The Ding has lost its lease. Victim to landlord greed, avarice, and douchebaggery. The Ding Dong Lounge at 929 Columbus Avenue will close its doors (hopefully only until a new location is found) on Thursday, July 31. It was a real pioneer being a rock & roll dive bar/music venue above 14th Street, and one with nary a television."

photo: Linda Rizzo

Opened by Bill Nolan, former owner of Motor City Bar (also just vanished), the Ding Dong got started in 2001, so not a very long time ago, but it gained a reputation. Gothamist called it "dirty in all the right places," a "blissfully local" "cheap dive with oodles of personality that is almost never filled (and certainly never with Columbia kids)."

The Village Voice named it the Best Cheap Manhattan Dive New York 2013. They described it: "There is not a single television set. The bathrooms are—well, the place has bathrooms. There's usually a DJ who likes classic punk and new wave."

In 2002, the Times credited the bar with helping to revitalize the neighborhood. And you know what that means. Said Nolan at the time, "I think this neighborhood has real potential, especially for entrepreneurs. There aren't many places left in this city where you can be the first of anything. I just need some more adventurers."

There's just one week left to check out the Ding Dong before it joins the rest of dirty, cheap New York--under the boot heels of the latest adventurous entrepreneurs. Linda will be spinning tonight and on 7/30, when, she says, "to quote Parliament, I will ‘tear the roof off the sucker.'"

Thursday, July 24, 2014

El Paso Restaurant


Reader Carol Gardens lets us know that the old El Paso restaurant on West Houston Street has closed. The place has been emptied and abandoned, with no explanation of when or why. The phone number has been disconnected and the website is gone.

A Yelper wrote on July 11: "Went there tonight and it's closed and it looks like for good. Menu is down. Metal grates over door and windows. RIP."

El Paso served Mexican-Spanish cuisine here since--well, I don't know since when. Possibly the 1960s. Maybe the 1980s. They had a big anniversary recently, with reduced prices, and I meant to go back but never did. Now I'm kicking myself.

They specialized in a cheap lobster dinner.