As usually happens in January, there were few openings and numerous closings, some of them due to lease issues. Corey Johnson, the new City Council Speaker, said that he was in favor of a hearing on the Small Business Jobs Survival Act (SBJSA), which, as described on the City Council website is, “A Local Law to amend the administrative code of the city of New York, in relation to creating a small business lease program for establishing an environment for fair negotiations in the commercial lease renewal process in order to determine reasonable lease terms.” The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP) recently sent a letter to its members where, in addition to encouraging them to urge city officials to support the SBJSA, it described how GVSHP is working with community groups and local politicians on other measures such as disincentivizing landlords from keeping storefronts empty for extended periods of time. Hopefully, the additional focus on the small business crisis will yield some positive results.
Gansevoort Market/Chelsea Market Update
In Gansevoort Market, the Mediterranean spot Baba has joined the line-up. Diners can create ‘Wholesome Plates’ by choosing a protein, base (e.g. rice, quinoa), spread, mezzes (vegetable salads), and a sauce. Thaimee, a new Thai restaurant is now open. It is an offshoot of the East Village Thai restaurant Thaimee Box at 244 East 13th Street (near 2nd Avenue). If you’re looking for large, freshly baked cookies, a new option is Chip NYC. Chick’nCone and Oppa have closed, and Skinny’s Satays, which had disappeared, now appears to be moving into the spot vacated by Big Gay Ice Cream. Over at Chelsea Market, Le Song, Bistro Francais is open in the space that very briefly housed Bar Truman. The restaurant has a large bar and a number of communal tables. Paradigmatic French dishes such as Escargots and French Onion Soup share the menu with more American offerings like Mac and Cheese and the Fried Chicken Sandwich. I was devastated to see that Chelsea Thai had closed. They were one of the original Chelsea Market tenants and had, what I considered, the best Thai noodles in the city. A sign on the door says they will be moving to the East Village.
Due West (189 West 10th Street, near West 4th Street): A cocktail bar has opened in the old Diablo Royale space. It is a comfortable spot with lots of windows looking out onto West 10th Street. The cocktails are innovative but not crazy, and a fun option is the ‘Due Your Own Old Fashioned’ where you personalize your drink by choosing a spirit, sugar, and bitter. The food is mostly small dishes with a few larger offerings.
South of the Clouds (16 West 8th Street, between 5th Avenue and MacDougal Street): The Yunnan Province in China is one of the most ethnically diverse regions in the country. When I travelled there years ago, one of the culinary highlights of the trip was a meal at a traditional noodle restaurant in Lìjiang. For a long time, there were no Yunnan rice noodles available in Manhattan, but now there are five restaurants serving them: Little Tong and Yuan in the East Village, The Rice Noodle on Bleecker Street, Deng Ji in Chinatown, and most recently, South of the Clouds, which just opened in the old Café Nadery space. The owner’s father runs a Yunnanese restaurant in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.
Chubby Slim’s Joyful Nosh (44 9th Avenue, at 14th Street): The corpse of Fatbird was barely cold when into the space, with minimal renovations, came the mysteriously-named Chubby Slim’s Joyful Nosh from the folks at Sugar Factory. The Southern comfort food of Fatbird has been replaced with Jewish comfort food such as Challah French Toast, Matzah Brie, Ruggaleh (sic), Falafel, Chopped Liver, and Pastrami. The menu is huge and includes some vegetarian and vegan options.
Two WestView contributors informed me that Walter’s Antique Clock & Watch Repair (240 West 10th Street, between Hudson and Bleecker Streets) had closed after 20 years at that location. The 70-year-old, Soviet-born owner, Walter Dikarev, had quite a following in the Village and beyond. The shoe store Paul Evans (35 Christopher Street, near Waverly Place) has closed this location and a sign on the door says they’ll be taking their show on the road to the West Coast. The antique store La Maison Supreme (617 Hudson Street, near Jane Street) is abandoning New York City and moving to antique-heavy Hudson, New York. After just about seven months, Fatbird (44 9th Avenue, at 14th Street) is gone. It opened to much fanfare with its celebrity chef Cat Cora, but it did not take long for the spectacularly negative reviews to arrive. A few months ago, Eater reported that Cat Cora was suing her partner, which is never a good sign. The tiny Japanese restaurant Akira Japanese (152 7th Avenue South, between Charles and Perry Streets), which had seemingly been there forever, has disappeared. We were quite taken with Momoku Hu, the energetic Taiwanese owner of Bubble Bar (204 West 14th Street, near 7th Avenue) and we thought the bubble waffles were fun, but sadly, after less than a year, the place has shuttered. The merchandise at Accessorize (329 Bleecker Street, at Christopher Street) had been looking a bit depleted as of late, but the staff insisted they were not going anywhere. Apparently, they had been misinformed.
When I arranged to interview someone from Bar-Free Bedford for my Chumley’s article (published in the November 2016 issue of WestView), she suggested we meet at the Hudson Diner (468 Hudson Street, at Barrow Street). It seemed to be a popular place with locals, and she told me that all the elderly residents of her building on Bedford Street would go there daily. On January 19th, one of our most observant readers wrote that he had heard a rumor that, after 24 years, the Hudson Diner was closing and that the health food store next door, Health and Harmony at 470 Hudson Street, would be expanding. He was not able to immediately confirm this, but on January 25th, he wrote again to say that he had just spoken to the co-owner, Rajiv, who told him that the restaurant would be closing on Sunday, January 28th. Rajiv said he would be relocating to the Moonstruck Diner in Midtown, but did not specify in what capacity. Ironically, in Steve Wilson’s September 2017 WestView article entitled “Urban Myth: Landlords Save Money by Keeping Spaces Empty (Part One),” the Hudson Diner was used as an example of a business that had survived in spite of rising rents. Wilson wrote:
“And even though [t]he Hudson Diner has emerged a winner in the West Village diner survivor square-off, co-owner Rajiv “Babu” Chowdhury is forced to work seven days a week. He has been facing a decline in business for each of the last three years. Babu says that even though he can pay rising rents and works very well with his landlord, his business suffered when the lunchtime corporate customer base left due to their high rents.”
Further north, the Hudson Street location of Le Pain Quotidien (550 Hudson Street, at Perry Street), the Belgian restaurant and bakery chain, is scheduled to close on March 25th. The hostess at the restaurant said that the landlord had not been willing to renegotiate the lease. The Japanese restaurant Saikai Dining Bar (24 Greenwich Avenue, near West 10th Street) has closed. A sign in the window apologizes, and promises that they will return soon in a different location. While the food was innovative and well prepared, and apparently quite authentic, the place always seemed empty. Fresh (388 Bleecker Street, at Perry Street) is closing their West Village location. I tried their products after reading about their Italian mud masks and really liked some of them. The Bleecker Street store was wonderful, mostly due to Manager Desiree’s upbeat attitude. All the neighborhood dogs used to come in for treats, and the displays often featured fresh fruit that Desiree purchased from local stores. Once a week, all the employees went on a neighborhood walk and talked to the employees at other stores on Bleecker Street. They were a great resource for this column as they always knew what was coming and going. When I went around Christmas, Desiree and all the other employees I had gotten to know were gone, and the place was not the same, so I’m not as sad as I might be about the closing.
The Rafael Viñoly-designed building at 61 9th Avenue (at West 15th Street), which replaced Prince Lumber, is rising quickly. When completed, it will be nine stories tall. Aetna was planning to move its corporate headquarters there, but the recent merger with CVS has put this plan in limbo (although the developer insists that Aetna has already signed a lease). Perhaps more interesting to Village residents is Starbuck’s plan for the building: They will open a Roastery there in 2018, modeled on one they opened a few years ago in Seattle. In the 20,000-square-foot space, customers will be able to see the roasting process as well as learn about coffee production and drink and purchase small-lot coffees. McNulty’s used to roast its own coffee many years ago, but according to David Wong, the current owner, coffee roasting is no longer allowed in residential neighborhoods. In this building, according to the developers, a special ventilation system was designed which will allow coffee roasting to take place.
We love hearing from you, and you are the reason we find out what’s going on in the West Village. Please keep sending your observations to firstname.lastname@example.org. All photos by Darielle Smolian.