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)!”

A restaurant employee, though, told us the closure is basically a done deal. “[Nick’s] just letting people know why.” He said that the building owner had raised the rent to cover a property tax hike.

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.

FOOD, NEWS, OPEN/CLOSED | 16 comments | permalink
    1. Phil says:

      “the building owner had raised the rent to cover a property tax hike” .. and yet brokers are already advertising the space. If the owner had a problem with that, he’d be stopping the brokers. They just want Nick out. Period.

      If Nick’s goes, a vital bloodline of the Upper West Side will be severed. Enjoy your family-friendly streets, and your cupcakes, and your fatty low-fat ice cream, and your homogenous landscape of beaming glass and shiny metal, Upper West Side. If you can afford it now, you will find that you probably won’t be able to very soon.

    2. Drew says:

      Incredibly sad and truly pathetic of the landlord.

      50% hike in rent to cover taxes? Righttt

    3. NikFromNYC says:

      Do not suddenly scream religious incantations at a customer named Nik, tall waiter with the pony tail. Bye bye.

    4. Leesa says:

      This is AWFUL! Big Nick’s is an institution. And what will take its place? Another crappy bank? This is really disturbing. And agree with Drew: truly pathetic of the landlord.

    5. Lois says:

      Awful. This could go the way Neo’s former space on 83rd and broadway has gone. Rent hike forced them out as well, yet the space has been vacant since April of 2010. Landlords help me out here. Why is it better to have a vacant space rather than a tenant who pays even if it’s not top dollar?

    6. KnanneK says:

      Everyone should agree to boycott whatever comes in there.

    7. Deanna1001 says:

      Sad indeed. I grew up on 77th St. and remember Nick’s when he started. That picture makes me think of Gitlitz which was where T-Mobile is now. There was an Associated Supermarket and Izmir’s pizza – a slice for a quarter for school kids from 44. But change has always been the defining characteristic of NY. Sad, but there you go…

      • DeJordy says:

        Gitlitz–yes! Have you seen that picture of the Gitlitz sign being exposed when T-Mobile moved in? I went to school on 77th when Gitlitz was there. Went to the Burger Joint almost every day–breakfast was less than buck.

    8. Pedestrian says:

      The building owner did not receive a 50% property tax hike! Something must be done to help small businesses survive on the upper west side. If the mayor can give billionaires tax breaks for $100 million apartments surely he can find a few bucks to help small business.

      • Cara D says:

        Why would a billionaire like Bloomberg want to help small businesses? And if property taxes increased by 50% there would be riots in the streets. It sounds like the landlord may have already found another tennant willing to pay the increase so he has to force out the existing business. And so goes the continual gentrification of the UWS!

    9. alice says:

      We have depended on big Nick’s for the forty two years we have lived in the neighborhood. It would be devastating to lose it. And I don’t want to imagine what would replace the space.

    10. Tommy says:

      Personally I limit my interaction with chain stores that blight our area. Ok, we are stuck with having to use Duanne Reade but one has to fight as much as possible. Don’t buy Starbucks, don’t buy the trendy new baked goods crap, shop at fairway and zabars. give money to big nicks and la caridad. It’s up hill and most of us are priced out of our own neighborhood.

    11. Luigi says:

      We came to New York as students in 1979. Stayed at the youth hostel that was set up at the Hotel Empire across from Lincoln Center. Paid $23 a day for a room with a washbasin and a toilet down the hall. One of our first meals in the city was at Big Nick’s, which we wandered into strolling up Broadway. Still had not expanded to the storefront next door (with the wood paneling.)We’ve lived in the West Side ever since, and would take my daughters there for pizza. All the waiters knew them, and the Indian lady was especially nice. They grew up going to Big Nick’s, and still take their out-of-town college friends there to show them the real NY. Then Niko’s came along, and we were regular customers. My daughter was in a framed picture by the door there of a West Side soccer league team that Nick sponsored one year. Sad to see Niko’s go too. Everything changes.

    12. Barbara says:

      The problem with these greedy landlords is that they drive out the businesses that make the neighborhood worth coming to, for shopping and eating. If Nick’s has to leave, I will never shop or eat in that space, and I will encourage my friends in that area to boycott also.

    13. Dickson Shaw says:

      The Big Nicks on 71st St and Columbus formerly belonged to Nick but when it was sold, the name Big Nicks remained . Try the food there and you’ll probably be disappointed