BIG NICK’S STILL IN LIMBO: ‘IT’S SOME KIND OF TORTURE’

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 info@westsiderag.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.

FOOD, NEWS | 22 comments | permalink
    1. Manny Garcia says:

      Im fourteen years old and from Miami.New York has always been a second home for me and Big Nicks is a big part of that. When I come here we my parents and order pizza I feel as if all the troubles in the world are gone. We started from basic cheese and peperroni to vegetables and teriyaki chicken. My parents and I love this restaurant and would hate to see it go. Big Nicks isn’t just a Burger and Pizza joint its a New York institution for this generation and more to come. When I have a family and kids I imagine myself walking them from school and taking them inside Big Nicks and sharing my childhood ‘pizza’ memories with them. Big Nicks,is not just a pizza and burger joint it’s a New York City food jem for generations to come.

    2. Steve says:

      Big Nicks refused to honor my expired deal voucher for the amount I paid for it, despite what the voucher said and what the law requires. They actually threw me and my girlfriend out of the place for asking. I used to go there all the time (I live a few blocks away), but with their level of customer service, it’s no surprise Nick is nearing the end of his financial rope. Maybe the new tenants will know how to treat customers well.

      • S Dorff says:

        With that kind of attitude and an expired voucher, I would have thrown you out too!
        Where is your loyalty man?

      • Cato says:

        If your voucher had expired, why should you expect them (or anyone) to honor it?

        Do you not understand the word “expired”?

        Big Nick’s people are great, helpful, nice. But if you can’t hold up your end of the deal and present your voucher before it expires, why should they? It’s unfair of you to blame them because you let your voucher expire.

      • Meech says:

        Under NY State law, vouchers for good and services can never “expire” they just lose value. You should be able to get the face value for it (i.e., if you paid $20 for $40 of services, you get $20 value). If you purchased it through a coupon site, i.e. Groupon, you need proof that they will not honor it and Groupon will reimburse you for the face value. If you received it from Big Nicks directly, they have to honor the face value. Good luck. There’s no excuse for their refusal (and I am a fan of Big Nicks and go there often) — get there before they’re gone.

    3. 4N7GIBsPBX says:

      This is a real shame. I wonder what they’ll turn this one into. Designer handbag store perhaps?

    4. Pedestrian says:

      Isn’t it interesting that the Bloomberg administration can give all sorts of incentivesto developers to build projects that include units costing 100 million but cannot figure out how to help save and protect small business like Nicks. Gee, I wonder why?

    5. M says:

      In May of 1975, as a single mother with a 3-1/2 year old daughter, I moved into a building on W. 77th Street between Amsterdam and Broadway. In the hassle of the move, with no time to cook, I asked a friend who was helping me to find a neighborhood restaurant to take my little girl to for a bite to eat. They chose Nick’s, the first place they came to, and it was a huge success. My little girl came back with take-out for me, enthusiastic about our great new neighborhood with the yummy pizza. As I recall, her choice was the Hawaiian with pineapple, about as exotic as you could get at the time. We went back to Nick’s many times.

      All these years later, I’m still here. My daughter has moved to Massachusetts, Washington State, London, Shanghai and, most recently San Francisco. Now she has a 3-1/2 year old of her own. I hope Nick’s will still be here when they visit in July so the three of us can have what I hope won’t be our last Big Nick’s treat.

    6. LDB says:

      I am a seasoned retail real estate broker and remember how Nick would let you know that if you positioned another restaurant on his side of the block where his burger joint is, he’d find a way to physically threaten you. There was no doubt then and now that Big Nick was a Big Bully. Good riddens.

      • Howard says:

        I hear you, but in a sense, who cares? As it stands, the customer is benefited by the Big Nicks of now. We know from trends what kinds of stores go into new spaces on the UWS. These stores might have very mild-mannered and polite owners/managers–unlike Nick–but add no value to the neighborhood.

    7. UWS Pilates says:

      Cost of rents is not doing anything good to entrepreneurs but they are the ones that make a difference to the whole micro economy (45 employees is 45 families).

    8. Angie says:

      This neighborhood needs Big Nicks.

    9. Steve H says:

      Big Nick’s is irreplaceable. Let him stay in business!

    10. I started a brunch retiree group with another retiree
      14 years ago. We originally used Nikko’s
      Nicks premier restaurant corner 76th & Broadway.
      When he closed we moved over to
      Nicks Burger, pizza joint.
      Every Wed. For 14 years at 11:30 till 1 pm.
      Where would we go, only a person like
      Nick would put up with us?
      With us.

    11. Veronica and LeRoy says:

      SAVE BIG NICKS!
      The New York we loved for 30 years while we lived there has changed a lot, but Big Nick’s was always there for the juiciest and best burgers or brunch! When winter wanes, Big Nick’s moves outside first. A Landmark for New Yorkers and former New Yorkers!

    12. Howard Freeman says:

      Have the politicians looked into getting a historical designation assigned to the building, especially if there’s a category that would keep the taxes low for the owner?

    13. OH NO!! First my heart and taste buds were broken with the closing of Nikko’s. Since then our Wed. brunch group has been meeting at Big Nick’s. Would hate to lose this one also. Hang in there Nick, we are with you.

    14. richard says:

      Gee I hope we get a Chase Bank or a Duane Reade.

    15. Anonymous in NY says:

      I first went to Big Nick’s 34 years ago, for my sister’s 15th birthday. (We were seeing a show across the street.) I’ve been going back ever since. Moved to the Upper West Side 20 years ago and have never lived more than 6 blocks from Nick’s in all that time. High school, college, first jobs… Nick’s was where we’d go. My kids have grown up eating his pizza, his burgers have fueled many a late-night debate among friends (where else would you go after a night of carousing to get good grub in your stomach and prolong the night?) Nick’s is Old New York in the best possible way. The idea that they would be forced to close breaks my heart. Thank you Nick, for being such a great part of my life.

    16. Alison Foliart says:

      Big Nick’s is our first stop when we return to New York and our last stop before flying out again. It has become such a meaningful place for my husband and I and our friends. We go there to laugh, to share, to sometimes cry over our burger – which always cheers us up. We introduce new people there nearly every day of every trip. You cannot beat the extensive menu, the delicious slices, the quick and efficient service, and the location. The location is paramount to Big Nick’s. Please, do not replace this true New York restaurant with another crappy retail store. Big Nick’s has been there for generations! What has happened to valuing the business that brings people into the community? We will continue our patronage, looking forward to every single bite.

    17. Marguerite Beck-Rex says:

      Whatever it takes, save Big Nick’s It’s an institution that helps people enjoy their neighborhood. Small businesses like Nick’s need the Mayor ‘s protection too.