OCEAN GRILL CLOSES SUDDENLY AFTER 18 YEARS, BRINGS SUIT AGAINST LANDLORD

HoistOceanGrill

By Joy Bergmann

Ocean Grill shucked its last oyster and abruptly closed on Sunday night after 18 years of service on Columbus Avenue between 78th and 79th street. A posted flyer from owner BR Guest Hospitality said, “we strongly believe Ocean Grill’s closing is due in part to disruptive actions by the building’s landlords and we have brought legal action against these parties.”

Monday afternoon found restaurant staff packing boxes and making arrangements for disappointed customers, including 150 guests booked for New Year’s Eve. “We are sad to have to shut our doors,” said Tom Brown, director of operations, “but the scaffolding just killed us.”

Brown refers to the scaffolding erected around 101 West 78th Street as part of a condo conversion of “The Evelyn” rental apartments, a project Attorney General Eric Schneiderman found in violation of the Martin Act and required its developers to pay $1.235 million in restitution back in June.

ocean grill2On Monday morning, Ocean Grill filed suit against 101 West 78th, LLC, its landlord, for breaching numerous lease provisions, especially with regard to the owner’s obligations to use its “best efforts not to allow the [construction] work to be performed in such a manner as will disrupt with the means of ingress and egress to the demised premises from the public sidewalk.”

Scaffolding has been present, then removed, then replaced various times since December 2012, according to the suit. Perhaps most troubling to the restaurant was the November 2014 installation of a construction hoist directly in front of the entrance. “It’s the green monster, like Fenway Park,” said Brown.

By way of damages, Ocean Grill seeks $1.495 million in lost earnings and $4.87 million for “lost value.” In 2012, the restaurant pulled in over $600,000 in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization; during the first 11 months of 2015 it booked a loss of $306,829 in EBITA, according to the suit. Here’s the full lawsuit.

WSR attempted to reach the landlord for comment. But first we had to try and decode who currently comprises 101 West 78th LLC. The New York Secretary of State’s office puts the LLC at 270 Madison Avenue, 19th Floor, where Newcastle Realty Services is located. However, according to their press representative, Newcastle Realty Services sold its interest in the property after the Attorney General settlement last summer. WSR left messages with another entity purported to be behind the LLC; we have yet to hear from them.

Whichever way the lawsuit shakes out, about 100 Ocean Grill employees lost their jobs right before Christmas. BR Guest Hospitality is relocating many staff to other locations like Isabella’s, Dos Caminos and Atlantic Grill, said Brown. “We’re trying to find work for everyone.”

Top photo by Joy Bergmann. Photo of sign by John.

FOOD, NEWS, OPEN/CLOSED | 48 comments | permalink
    1. Bob says:

      that’s sad news. one of the few pretty darn good restaurants on the uWs.

    2. whaaaaaat says:

      nooooooo

    3. Ryan says:

      Had many memorable dinners there, birthdays, anniversaries but a month ago when wanting to put a christening lunch there we decided not to on account of the frontage. It’s not a Brother Jimmys, for that level of dining the presentation matters. Can’t believe that up the street Uno’s finally got their scaffolding down and then OG got plagued by it too.
      Real shame. Last time there Michael Duglas sat behind us, guess we’ll be seeing him at Uno’s now

    4. Ellen says:

      Very sad news. This was a great part of the neighborhood, reliable food, reasonably priced (all things considered – hey — it’s seafood) great bar crowd, wonderful staff, I could go on. The scaffolding killed them and their lovely outdoor space. Very sad and a huge loss.

    5. Paul RL says:

      Ugh! So many great meals there. Huge loss for the UWS.

    6. keith says:

      Without a doubt a huge loss. I hope they find another place on the UWS to find home.

    7. Jeff says:

      As an aside, kudos to Joy & WSR for a well-reported, crisply written article. The site is really getting better at tackling hard news.

    8. Natalya says:

      Devastated. It was a jewel in the neighborhood and it was clear the scaffolding was killing it. Hope they win that suit. And maybe they could come back to the space- it is a very special space, with those views (which we haven’t seen since the scaffolding went up, but still)…

    9. Duckwise says:

      Horrible news. I’ve had so many meals there and the bar was absolutely the best with such a lovely view. What a terrible disgrace to that whole wonderful building (RIP Eveleyn lounge etc.)

      Perhaps Ocean/BR Guest could take over the neglected Bang and Olufsen space that’s been empty for nearly a decade.

      Would love to get them back in the neighborhood, even if the space isn’t as charming.

    10. Jose Torres Jr. says:

      I will miss this Bar/Restaurant, I always sat at the bar and ordered from the bar menu, such a gorgeous looking and feel at home establishment, clams on the half shell special was my favorite, always enjoyed beautiful conversation with the patrons who also sat at the bar….So long for now and thanks for my wonderful dinning experience…..

    11. Bishop says:

      Such a shock to go there for lunch today – having just been there Friday for a drink – and to see this classic UWS restaurant being dismantled. A great loss for the neighborhood, and New York generally. A friend who worked on Wall Street on 9/11 walked all the way uptown that day, dust-covered, and headed straight to Ocean Grill where he knew he would find comfort, excellent food and a great staff, which has been the case always. Reminds me of the loss of Docks several years ago. Many memorable meals and occasions there. This really hurts.

    12. UWS Dad says:

      Very sad news. We’ve had very many lovely meals at Ocean Grill over the last ten years and we will miss it greatly. It was also one of the few places to have some healthy and tasty options (grilled salmon and broccoli) on the kids’ menu.

    13. Bob says:

      they might find a new spot but the one they had, when in working order, is some prime time uWs real estate. gorgeous space.

    14. C says:

      Really too bad. I could never understand why the scaffolding never came down. Always liked the place – the bar was always a nice place to meet friends, not too noisy but lively, and enjoyed brunch there with my parents for years. Will be missed.

    15. Steve in Manhattan says:

      They served me a half-frozen crab cake once. Justice.

    16. NSA says:

      So sad. We really loved this place – it was our date night, bring our out of town folks to dinner spot. We loved the options of all the different types of dining areas – bar to old school dining room to relaxed outdoors! You’ll be missed, OG.

    17. Gary says:

      If rent hikes don’t kill businesses the scaffolding will. I don’t know why anyone would want to open a business in this city, the odds are perpetually stacked against you.

    18. Elaine Evons says:

      LLCs are doing so much damage to this city. Ocean was my favorite restaurant and I am so sad to hear of it closing.

    19. Shamir says:

      I liked Ocean Grill and I’m sorry it’s gone but I find it hard to believe that scaffolding was the reason the restaurant closed.

      Restaurants are constantly opening and closing on the UWS. There are numerous factors why restaurants don’t survive.

    20. Gail says:

      Oh no! Please come back to the UWS!

    21. George says:

      We lose our history when successful businesses are negatively impacted by “disrespectful” development. Ocean will be missed.

    22. regina jordan says:

      The upper west side is going luxury condo, rental etc., crazy to the sacrifice of people losing their jobs and occupants losing good restaurants. Soon the UWS will be one big luxury housing mall with nothing but chain and mediocre restaurants, banks, drug and wireless stores. It is disgusting!!

      • Sean says:

        The seventies are over.

        • Cato says:

          So are the eighties.

          And the sixties.

          And 1803, as well as 1921.

          Um — so??

          • Sean says:

            So? These posters can’t deal with the reality of this area as it is today. It is not going to go back to the way it was. These retail locations are a market. This is not Vermont.

            • Cato says:

              They “can’t deal with” what you call the “reality” of it? Or just that they don’t like it?

              Aren’t we all entitled to express our likes and our dislikes? Or must all those who simply don’t like your vision of the world just hold their tongues — or move to Vermont (whatever on Earth Vermont has to do with it)?

              I think they can “deal” with it. They just don’t like it. That doesn’t warrant a cryptic, and probably condescending, response that “The seventies are over”.

            • Bruce Bernstein says:

              nicely said, Cato.

            • Cato says:

              Thank you, Bruce. Nice to see you back.

      • UWSEd says:

        Remember the east side of Broadway between 77th & 78th?

        A diner, a Chinese restaurant, an antiques store, a penny candy store, and a pizza joint.

        Now, we have CVS and Marshall’s.

        ‘Nuf said.

        • stuart says:

          When I moved to the neighborhood in the mid 1980s, I thought remembered a Chinese restaurant on the west side of Broadway maybe between 76th and 77th?

          • wcsnyc says:

            You’re right, Stuart. It was called Hot Woks. I ordered from them regularly. Their fried wonton in hot oil was really HOT … not the wimpy version served in most restaurants. And I loved that little antique store on the same block. In case you were the “plan ahead” type, he had a section on the second floor displaying Christmas ornaments all year round.

      • RightO says:

        Oh please.

        “disgusting” ? very dramatic. I liked it too. but a “classic” come on.

        I also like the restaurants before it at this site : Cafe Centro, Cafe Pacifico.. change is a constant in new york.

        check out openings and closings for many new mom and pops (hoping to one day be chains)

        first, Ocean Grill was part of major corporation ie. an evil chain store.
        and LLCs are not destroying anything. its just another corporate formation. If you cared about jobs, taxes and businesses ,you should lobby the city council to encourage employment, not red tape business out of the City.

        Finally, the UWS has had condos and co-ops and yes Rich people since its creation -hello Dakota. If you don’t like it, there is always the Bronx.

    23. UWSer says:

      Sad news, indeed. At least I now understand the abysmal brunch we had there on Sunday.

    24. WombatNYC says:

      Not surprised – ( 101 West 78th Street ) Newcastle Realty owned by the Margaret Streicker Porres are one of the worst landlords in the city. Corrupt , unethical, constantly in the news for violations and strong arm tactics. Nightmare of a family and organization !

    25. Sushi Roll says:

      Nooo! Love The sushi and vibe at OG. Have had so many special occasion meals and loved going there for a nicer-night out on the UWS. Great bar area and bartenders. They were always helpful with kids, too. Will be missed–hope they reopen soon!! Loss of an UWS institution.

    26. Mark says:

      Well I’m apparently in the minority as someone who would say “good riddance”.
      The old Ocean Grill, when part of the BR Guest group, was truly a great restaurant. But since the change in management I found that the food was mediocre at best and the service to range from average to incompetent.

    27. Debra says:

      This is no good. I was just there on Thanksgiving which was fantastic. I’ve been going there since they opened. I hope they win the lawsuit and come back.

    28. It’s a plague on our neighborhood and a plague on our city. I would call these developers vultures, but it gives vultures a bad name. And Attorney General Eric Schneiderman had the nerve to be proud of fining this particular group $1.2 million, which they will make that back in a wink of an eye.

      I ask: Where are our elected officials? De Blasio, Gale Brewer, Helen Rosenthal, Scott Stringer and so on and so on. I know I’ll offend people, but In my opinion, the reason they are not standing up and protecting their constituents (us) in the face of the rampant development, and in the case of this building—the displacement and harassment of tenants—is simple. They all want to be mayor and they need the money from the developers to get there. De Blasio certainly showed us that in his quid pro quo deal with the far west side developer during the election: a horse carriage for a plot of land for money to blast Quinn in the primary.

      We, the citizens have to walk in the middle of the streets through the construction, have to lose our restaurants, dry cleaners, shoe repair shops, and stores,and have to give up a beautiful neighborhood park so billionaires can tear down beautiful old buildings, have their names writ large on new buildings, hide their ill-begotten money in LLCs, and become even richer so they can exploit yet more people and suck the soul out of more of our neighborhoods, while those representing us sit on their hands. As Kurt Vonnegut said,..and so it goes.

      • Meghan says:

        Well said, Marnie. I am currently dealing with daily noise from two different condo construction projects that I can hear in my apartment simultaneously. It is out of control.

    29. Sean says:

      What about AROC? That restaurant was there too.

    30. Victor Lesser says:

      My favorite NYC restaurant! Please, please re-open soon …or come to eastside Cleveland!

    31. Judith Hunt says:

      Loved this place. Great food great vibe Please come back when you can. Some Landlords should be locked in a Chipotle forever!

    32. June Trafton says:

      Although I’m sorry to see Ocean Grill close, can’t say I’m surprised. Had a disgusting Thanksgiving dinner there two years ago; never returned for dinner there. Did continue to enjoy the charming bar for drinks and raw clams until they replaced very lovely round wooden bar tables with austere, rough edged metal tables that totally destroyed the ambience of this, once inviting, bar. Who was the idiot who made these changes? A loss, but a deserved loss.

    33. What a shame, they should be compensated. always “eat mo’ fish”

    34. joe says:

      RENT INCREASE, DUE IMMEDIATELY.

    35. Cliff says:

      This entire affair is very sad to hear on many levels.
      Most importantly sad for those who lost employment.
      Not a resident of NYC however Ocean Grill was one of our go-to restaurants over the past few years when in the City.
      Was always great food, great atmosphere, and great service.
      We hope a new location opens in The UWS and the name remains the same.
      Good luck with everything !