Thursday, January 17, 2013

Demise of a Diner

Did you see University Restaurant is closed, I asked my friend.

I just went by there last week.

It’s no longer in business.

This conversation took place a week or so into the New Year and last week meant December. I didn’t call it University Restaurant; I called it that diner on University. I am in this neighborhood about once a week, although the holidays and earlier, Sandy, kept me away but no more than a week or two than usual. I haven’t had the occasion to eat here in quite a while, but I am sure I would have noticed it being closed, just like I did now.

The death of this diner is a recent one. New York diners cannot compete with New Jersey diners, but they do a good job and offer reasonably priced food in Manhattan’s costly eating realm. As the name implies, and it’s close proximity to New School University and NYU, is popular with students, faculty, and employees. For a period of time I hate here, lunch. Grilled Swiss on rye with bacon, bowl of soup and an ice tea. Free refills on the tea, It was a nice, pleasant, fast service, good food. Everything anyone could require.

So, now it’s gone. This neck of the Manhattan woods is undergoing what appears to be a pernicious make-over. Seems a lot of places are now closed, the closing in the past few weeks. Perfectly good businesses, lots of food traffic, but the decisions being made seem unrelated to the laws of supply and demand that we’re told are like gravity, we’re all subject to them and while they may not be fair at least they are objective. Supply and demand – not to mention tradition, custom and community – can be made far less powerful than gravity by laws of NYC commercial real estate property ownership.

One of two things. Not satisfied with the profits a large, well-runned diner can generate ,the owners will open another establishment that can increase the size of those profits. Or, NYU is taking over the West Village, turning it into a vast campus and the University Restaurant was only the latest business of the old village to succumb. Both things could be true, and there’s a “for rent” sign on the window, so maybe the proprietors of this respectable village diner had personal issues that caused the demise.

More than likely, a confluence of factors rather than a single reason is at fault.

NYU has turned itself from a regional college into an international academic leader. It brings young people and money into the city, my friend a Manhattanite reminded me.
The village is not the village anymore, I sad. 

The village hasn’t been the village for 20 years.

True that. True for us too.


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