Big Nick’s Burger & Pizza Joint has been in limbo for months, as its landlord has said he will hike the restaurant’s rent by about $20,000 a month, but hasn’t done so yet. The beloved 51-year-old restaurant is still hanging on, but not by much. And Big Nick himself is feeling pretty awful about it.
“It’s some kind of torture,” owner Nick Imirziades said when we talked to him this week. “I can’t sleep at night.”
The owner of the building is a company called Lophijo Realty, but the lease is controlled by Shimmie Horn, the owner of the Triumph Hotel chain. Triumph Hotels runs the Hotel Belleclaire (pictured at right), which is located in the same building on the corner of 77th and Broadway as Big Nick’s, along with Bra Smyth and News Inc. Horn recently renovated the hotel, and the real estate taxes went up, the New York Times reported earlier this year. Under the lease, Big Nick’s and the other tenants are responsible for paying additional rent to make up for the higher taxes. That means his rent would be $60,000 a month instead of $40,000, a 50% jump. He can’t afford that “selling burgers and pizza.”
Starting last October, realtors had been advertising the Big Nick’s space as being available for rent, saying it was available as of April 1. The listing now says it is available “immediately.”
Nick said that he’s worried for his 45 employees and doesn’t know how to operate when he has no idea what the landlord plans to do. Horn appears to be actively looking for other tenants, Nick said, but apparently hasn’t found one yet. Shimmie Horn did not respond to a request for comment.
Politicians have offered to help, but nothing has come of it yet, Nick said. Meanwhile, he doesn’t know what to do if he has to replace equipment or make other investments, because he could be kicked out at any moment.
“If the refrigerator breaks, should I replace it? That’s thousands of dollars,” he said. “I can’t plan.”
Big Nick used to own more restaurants but has since sold them all. The one on 71st street called Big Nick’s is no longer owned by him. It’s not clear what he’ll do if he’s forced to leave.
In the meantime, send us an email at email@example.com with your favorite Big Nick’s memory, or just a description of why you like the burgers or pizza and don’t want it to close. Make the subject line “Save Big Nick’s.” We’ll publish them (we don’t have to use your name if you don’t want) and get them to Nick, and maybe it will brighten his day. And then we can drop a copy off with Shimmie Horn. Who knows, maybe he could be swayed to make a deal.