By Alex Israel
As 2018 comes to a close this month, four kosher businesses –Seasons (661 Amsterdam Avenue), Chocolate Works (641 Amsterdam) near 91st Street, Big Bang Burger (426 Amsterdam) near 80th, and CoffeeBerry (618 Amsterdam) near 90th – have closed their doors on the Upper West Side.
In a city with more and more vacant storefronts, keeping small businesses running is a challenge. Despite a local demand for kosher establishments, high rent paired with the necessary regulation from the glatt kosher industry puts them at even more of a disadvantage, some say.
Chocolate Works, a candy store with twenty locations across the country, found it “impossible” to negotiate after reaching the end of their seven-year lease on the Upper West Side, store manager Natalie Serussi told WSR. “The rent doubled … We were forced to close this location,” she said. “It’s really a shame.” Asked about the rent increase, Aaron Gavios of Gavios Realty Group, which is attempting to rent the space, told us that “my understanding is that is not accurate.” He did not elaborate.
WSR reported earlier this month on gourmet supermarket Seasons‘ plans for closure due to their parent company’s bankruptcy. A manager there told us that investors bought the other stores, but not the Manhattan location.
Big Bang Burger, a burger joint that opened in 2017, served their last meal on December 23. They shared a note on their Facebook page thanking Upper West Siders for visiting, and are hosting an auction on January 3rd to sell their restaurant equipment. As owner Dr. Gabriel Ethan Feldman told the Forward, between the costs of rent and kosher inspections it was impossible to keep the doors open.
The 750-foot space on 426 Amsterdam Ave, which did not have a bathroom, cost Feldman and his business partner, Jane Potter (a platonic friend he met on JDate) $13,000 a month. He paid over $60,000 a year for kosher inspections, which was “virtually like paying another rent,” said Feldman. “It’s dealing with another oversight organization that has, if not as much power as the city, then maybe more. You’re better off not getting involved with the glatt kosher meat industry.”
CoffeeBerry, a café and healthy eatery that opened in 2015, also closed abruptly earlier this month, despite initially planning for renovations. A recent Yelp review underscores the loss felt by the community: “Was great. Big selection. Quality food. Now it’s closed. No word from the owners. Sad.”
Heading into the new year, optimistic locals looking for kosher options can turn to newer restaurants like Boru Boru (774 Amsterdam Avenue), which opened its doors in 2018 and serves pastrami ramen, and Amsterdam Burger Co. (680 Columbus Avenue at 93rd Street), which plans to open in 2019.