By Carol Tannenhauser
Pier 72, a 41-year-old neighborhood diner on the southeast corner of West 72nd Street and West End Avenue plans to close at the end of the month, and its customers are calling it another major neighborhood loss.
Georgia Fotiadis, who has worked there since its opening in 1979, said, “I grew up and grew old in there.” She said that the restaurant is struggling to make money given the capacity limits on restaurants. The building’s rent offer didn’t work for the owner Jimmy Papalabros, she said. Meanwhile, the diner is dealing with huge challenges from Covid. “It’s very hard when you’re only allowed 25% customers inside — and the customers don’t want to come inside! They’re afraid and I understand it. Jimmy decided it wasn’t worth it.”
Papalabros has owned Pier 72 since 1979. “Even if he was here, he wouldn’t talk,” Georgia said. “He’s too down.”
The building where Pier 72 sits is 260 West End Avenue, a co-op. Liz Osur-Marcal, treasurer of the co-op’s board, said in an interview that the building tried hard to work with their commercial tenants, knowing how hard it is for them to make it during the pandemic.
“We really wanted to help all five of our commercial tenants, both for their sakes and ours and for the neighborhood,” she said. “Four out of five of our tenants signed five-year leases in the last month. The final rent we offered was well, well, well below what they were paying before the pandemic.”
She said they offered Papalabros a one-year lease that he didn’t want to sign.
“We are very sorry to be losing him, but needed a tenant whose business would be adaptable to this environment,” she said. “This is just a horrible time to be a diner owner. We did our best to be flexible and reach an agreement with Jimmy, but it was not possible. We will do our best to find another small local business to fill the space.”
Still, customers are committed to helping keep Pier 72 around, given how important it has been to the neighborhood.
“Jimmy has been serving the elderly and the neighborhood for decades,” wrote Lisa Sharkey in an email to West Side Rag. “All three of my children ate their first solid food at this restaurant. When my boys were in high school they kept an account there and I would pay weekly and they would pick up their bacon egg and cheese on a croissant as they walked to school every day. To lose the Pier 72 will leave broken hearts and an empty hole in this neighborhood that is already suffering so much.”
“More than 90% of our customers are regulars,” Fotiadis said. “They’re all signing a petition to the building’s co-op board.”
The Rag obtained a copy from a customer.
To Whom It May Concern,
This letter and petition should be directed to the Co-Op Board of 260 West End Ave.
I would like to address the board on behalf of customers of the restaurant located in your building. My plea, like many of my neighbors, is for an equitable resolution for the Pier 72 Restaurant. We want to appeal to the management of your building to try and find a sensible way for the restaurant to stay in business.
I’m among many long-time customers who feel the closing of our favorite café will not only be missed but be an extreme hardship. Our neighborhood has a lot of seniors who depend on this restaurant for our daily meals. For them, walking extra blocks to have a meal a day is not an option. I have lived in this neighborhood for over 48 years and I can’t remember when the restaurant wasn’t here. Besides being a welcoming establishment, it serves many good purposes to help us survive.
I have owned my own business and I’ve owned property, so I know what it’s like to keep property solvent. In this particular unsettling climate, keeping responsible tenants is wise. It’s also beneficial to show good will.
I hope that issues can be resolved so that our neighborhood can keep the comfort of knowing our favorite café is still here. “Where everybody knows your name.”
The petition is not online. You can sign it at Pier 72. Georgia said over 200 people already have.