By Erwin H. Lerner
The frightful sight of many boarded-up, former retail stores in our area caught my eye, and stimulated the notion of writing an article on the subject. I wondered: Why is the West Village suffering so many small business failures? What disappointing business establishment occupied this and that now vacant space? Why’d they depart?
I pictured hard-working moms and pops once earning a decent living, growing weary after years of an overly hectic pace or, due to the slowed U.S. economy, struggling storekeepers opening in the early morning and closing evenings after a pitiful day’s long, hard, boring pace. I thought, maybe at their lease’s end, they chose to cash in their chips and escape to retirement somewhere in sunshine.
The longtime Japanese restaurant, Sushi Mambo at 255 Bleecker Street became a victim of our times. Another casualty is the late El Faro, which this ardent author compulsively visited. For 127 years, it was situated in a landmarked 150-year-old building at 807 Greenwich Street (and Jane Street).
DNAinfo’s weekly real estate newsletter of October 4, 2012 (http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20121004/meatpacking-district/el-faro-restaurant-stay-closed-indefinitely-owner-says), reported that the Spanish restaurant El Faro was closed by the Board of Health due to $11,195 owed to the city to cover fifty-seven Health Department violation points for “evidence of mice or live mice present,” plus improper handling of food to prevent cross-contamination and improperly maintained plumbing. The most current restaurateur declared losing his restaurant devastated him.
Perhaps, these businesses tragically fell off a cliff; or once-hopeful entrepreneurs felt pressured to chuck it and disappointedly disappear. Landlords, I conjecture, have turned so many properties into eyesores of boarded-up, paper-covered windows and doors, or simply abandoned and denuded places. These landlords want to double or triple rents, and they patiently await a limited tax write-off to ease their balance sheet pangs. How long must a space remain dormant? What’s next? Will our reportedly sagging economy be fruitful again? My mind conjures clichés: Time will tell. The Shadow knows.