Big Nick’s is in big trouble. The restaurant on 77th Street and Broadway may have to shut down after serving Upper West Siders sloppy delicious food for more than 50 years, because of a rent hike that will make its annual rent cost more than $700,000. Big Nick himself broke the news to customers on the restaurant’s Facebook page on Sunday:
“I am still negotiating since I cannot do $60,000+ per month for 1000 square feet. After 50 years there in the same place, paying above market most of those years…well, it is a hard thing,” owner Nick Imirziades (below) wrote. “I can pay the $40,000 per month I am paying now. I just can’t pay $60,000. It is only 1000 square feet (and you know how small my place is)!”
Big Nick’s is an Upper West Side institution, a 24-hour burger joint with a shockingly long menu and a very dear place in the hearts of long-time locals. We included it in our ongoing series on “Essential Eats” of the Upper West Side. When Big Nick’s offered food at 1962 prices to celebrate its 50th anniversary (60 cent burgers!) the lines stretched around the block.
Fans want to find a way to save Big Nick’s: “I will seriously do anything you need to keep you guys on Broadway! I’ll show up, I’ll protest, anything,” wrote Amanda Cormier on Big Nick’s facebook wall. “It’s the only place I truly love on the Upper West Side and feel like is a second home,” she added.
“If Big Nick’s closes, the last of the real New York goes with it… been eating there since I started solid foods,” wrote another fan.
“Big Nick’s is an institution on the Upper West Side. It has been there for me in good times, bad times and especially when I was drunk at 4:00 or 5:00 AM. This really makes me sad,” wrote another.
Nick isn’t calling for a public campaign to save the restaurant at this point, saying he’s still trying to negotiate with the landlord. He told us he had “not intended to go public,” but rumors had been spreading and he wanted to address them.
Brokers have been advertising the space, along with the two businesses next door. “Unparalleled Broadway frontage. New facade pending Landmarks approval. Prime corner location. Three existing spaces will be combined,” says the listing. The other two businesses are the Bra Smyth and News Inc. The listing says the spaces will be available on February 1.
The city recently passed new zoning rules that disallow storefronts on the Upper West Side that are larger than 40 feet, but the rule doesn’t apply to Broadway.
The building that houses Big Nick’s is the Hotel Belleclaire, a Beaux-Arts masterpiece designed by Emery Roth in the early 1900′s. The building is owned by Lophijo Realty, a corporation with very little public profile. Just finding its phone number takes quite a bit of digging. Owner John Huber, Jr. has not responded to our request for comment. Nor have the brokers gotten back to us.
Big Nick’s has another location on West 71st Street, and there’s no reason to suspect that it’s in danger.
Read our piece on how Nick got started and the restaurant’s history here. We’ll keep you updated as this story develops.
Hotel Belleclaire photo by Amy Aglar. Thanks to Gavan for the tip.