Pier 72 Plans to Close at the End of the Month; Loyal Customers Launch a Petition to Save It

Pier 72 will close unless a new lease can be worked out.

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.”

Before the pandemic, Jimmy at the register.

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.

FOOD, NEWS, OPEN/CLOSED | 55 comments | permalink
    1. EdNY says:

      Where’s Jerry Nadler going to go?

    2. 72 RSD says:

      Sad to see the diner go. This pandemic puts the food services industry in such a bad position. Especially affordable, lower-margin businesses like diners.

      I’ve walked by the diner a lot this summer/fall. And even taking-up lots of the sidewalk, it’s clear there was no way they could survive into the winter.

      But the “petition” is nonsense, and I’m glad WSR was able to speak to the co-op board. The building themselves said they offered a big rent cut for a long-time tenant. The diner’s landlord is part of this community and I’m sure they see “for rent” signs all over. Seems like the co-op tried to make this work. COVID closed this business, not the building.

    3. Leon says:

      I know several owners in this building. These are typical Upper West Siders, not profit-driven ruthless corporate suits. I trust that they negotiated in good faith.

      That being said, good luck to them filling this space in this market. I would rather have $1 than $0.

    4. Otis says:

      What is the “equitable resolution” this customer petition is asking from the coop board?

      The treasurer of the coop board said the building has been doing the best it can do to accommodate this diner and has offered to lower rent significantly.

      Just last week the NY Times RE section had a big article about coops losing commercial tenants to the pandemic and many tenants – existing or potential – don’t want the space at any price.

      I’m sorry this diner is going under but people should find something productive to do with their time instead of lecturing landlords about issues they know nothing about.

    5. Carlos says:

      For at least the last 5-10 years, I have never seen this restaurant open at night. I’m not sure why – is this a restriction the building puts on them? Their business would be a lot more profitable if they were open for dinner. I don’t get it…

    6. Dodo says:

      I don’t know what the food or service was like because The bathroom in this diner is not accessible and you had to go down a steep narrow staircase – I don’t know how this was permissible in this day in age ….

    7. Juan says:

      I believe that the restaurant also had some kind of a special deal with the building that is rolling off. We looked at an apartment there a few years ago and the maintenance was ridiculously high vs. comps – we were told that it was due to the arrangement with the tenant(s) and was expiring soon.

      I don’t know exactly what it was and would appreciate someone else more knowledgeable commenting. I assume the restaurant owners knew they were going to get a bump even if the pandemic hadn’t come?

    8. Bronx Boy says:

      Pre-pandemic, this was a nice place for breakfast. Food was always well-cooked, and there was a bright slice of orange on the side that made it cheerful.

      If this restaurant is in a co-op and the co-op owners get a vote, why wouldn’t they want this diner in their building?

      The one thing I always noticed was that Pier 72 closed early. Maybe the road to salvation is longer hours and late-night delivery west of Broadway.

      • RS says:

        I’ve thought the same thing for a long time. Many times I wanted to order there but they were closed. I will go and sign the petition. Lovely people working there.

      • jezbel says:

        This place has been my favorite place for breakfast or lazy informal Sunday brunch for years. I’ll miss it. But we’ll be on lock-down (or nearly) for at least another 6 to 8 months with possibly a respite next summer. Tough times for restaurants.

    9. lynn says:

      This is depressing news. I picked up take-out from there quite often and really appreciated the fact that they always used fresh meat and produce (unlike some other places that have prepackaged ‘burgers, and fries). It seemed that they made a real effort to do outdoor dining despite being covered in scaffolding and right next to the bus stop. I hope they can work something out that will benefit everyone involved.

    10. Ann Farbman says:

      please keep Pier 72 intact for us
      It is a neighborhood staple
      and holds so an uff us for many many years

    11. Nathan says:

      This was one of the good ones 🙁

    12. your_neighbor says:

      I always marveled at how a dining establishment in this neighborhood could be closed every night.
      Walked by their closed establishment many times in the evening on the way to other places to eat.
      Looks like the co-op did whatever they could to keep the restaurant there.

    13. D-Rex says:

      As to the co-op “…but needed a tenant whose business would be adaptable to this environment” Sounds like an unlikely scenario to me.
      There is no shortage of commercial space, better to have them pay next to nothing until business can come back for them next year.

      An empty space pays no rent.
      Not exactly an ideal location. Pier 72 did well to make it work for all these years.

    14. Tam says:

      The diner could not be open for dinner. The deal was made this way because tenants/co-op owners didn’t want food smells when they came home in the evening.

      Love this place – it’s our regular, go-to, classic NYC Greek diner. Sad they are all going away.

      From the interview, it sounds like the building tried a good faith effort but perhaps the family / owner are just done with it and unwilling to tie themselves up in a lease with an unknown future due to COVID and a post-pandemic NYC. That corner is pretty far over in the UWS.

      I’m sad to see them go – food was good, well-priced – honestly I favored them and Old John’s (also gone) far over Utopia and fancier places like Good Enough To Eat (says who – my two meals there were gross).

      I suspect the place will sit empty a long time.

      • Lily G. says:

        Pier 72 is in my blood. I have gone there regularly since
        1985 when I moved to the area. The food is good, the prices are good and the people who run it and work there are THE BEST!!!They have helped so may older adults survive in the neighborhood and they ARE the neighborhood. People eat, socialize and get fulfilled. This is what makes a neighborhood. This will be a great loss and will create hardships for many older adults who can remain in their apartments but depend on Pier 72 for food. To the coop, wait until the vaccine is out and around before you try to negotiate any more. Keep their rent low until things get better. This will become a vacancy like many others all over the westside and your maintenance will increase. Right now is the time for this local coffee to remain where it is. People need it of all ages. Please keep it alive.

        Lily G.

      • Henley says:

        I live in the building. There is no “deal”, he just has never wanted to serve dinner. He runs everything himself and has a lean staff. He starts early, serves breakfast and lunch, works eight hours and goes home before dinner.

    15. B.B. says:

      What is do difficult for many to understand?

      Just as with residential if you are leasing commercial/retail space and suffer a decrease in income you don’t have many options.

      If the situation is temporary and you can ride things through, then it makes sense to remain and maybe even sign lease renewal. But OTOH if you just don’t see things getting better anytime soon, then maybe time to pack it in.

      You can drink the Kool-Aid being served by “Cancel The Rent” people, and hope somewhere down the line something will happen. But in meantime you’re racking up debt.

    16. B.B. says:

      On another note many co-op and condo buildings with retail/commercial are starting to feel the heat. Tenants aren’t paying their dues/fees, and or are closing vacating space.

      When above happens buildings have to make up that shortfall some way or how. Leaving aside loss of rental income from a vacant space, co-op or condo buildings where commercial has not paid their monthly dues means buildings must turn to residents to make up short fall in finances.

      Reserves will only go so far; and not every building has vast amounts, and or wants to tap into those funds.

      https://therealdeal.com/2020/11/10/new-yorks-covid-fueled-retail-apocalypse-hits-condo-and-co-op-owners/

    17. B.B. says:

      What you are seeing in many instances is small businesses of all sorts, laundries, dry cleaners, restaurants, etc.. that are run by late middle age to older people simply saying “enough”, and closing.

      Running a small business in NYC was never easy, even for the young. But when you get to sixty or above the grind gets to you at times, and right now is one of those times on steroids.

    18. the Underground Man says:

      This is very sad. I love this place. I was bummed when they had to close briefly to deal with whatever the Health Dept. thought was wrong. This is/was my favorite NYC breakfast.

    19. DéDé Greenberg says:

      I will miss Pier 72. Whenever I come in from Cincinnati I meet my best friend there for breakfast. When my husband comes to NY with me we eat there. My father loved Pier 72. So does my brother in law. It’s an institution.

    20. Sad UWS says:

      Not Pier 72!!! I am out of town until early December, so I am very disappointed I cannot sign this petition in person. If an online petition gets created- please let us know WSR. Although, it seems fitting that the petition is in person only..considering everything about this diner feels old school, like it has just been a fixture for the UWS forever.

      My husband and I have come here several times over the last couple years (I wish we had discovered it sooner)! It’s the kind of place where you walk in and there’s the ladies that meet there once a week to catch up and have their usual order that is memorized by the staff, older men reading the NY times in the window drinking cup after cup of coffee..it’s just so special. One of the only restaurants on the West End!! Please Co-op, make a deal with them. Don’t let this space just sit empty forever..just take a walk down Broadway and check out the endless empty restaurants/businesses. Some rent is better than nothing at all!

    21. Rikitikitok says:

      I’ve only been here once but this article genuinely made me cry. My heart breaks. I love that this place exists.

    22. js says:

      How about a Go Fund Me effort?

      • Dive lover says:

        Some regulars want to start one but are waiting for him to discuss w/ his attorney

        • Allison Devore says:

          Has anyone asked the owners about whether a Go Fund Me effort would help? Do they need cash to carry them through the winter months? I can be helpful on the Go Fund Me front but has anyone talked with the owners to see what would help?

    23. Paul Bleifeld says:

      We have been eating here since 1975 when we moved into the neighborhood. The food is always fresh, and the staff will try to do exactly what you ask for. If there is a way to work this out, PLEASE! If a Go Fund Me is an answer, we will be happy to contribute.

    24. Carrie Levin says:

      This is so sad, my name is Carrie Levin I was chef/owner of Good Enough to Eat who may have it’s 40th anniversary this summer. 2 of our children went to the Center School, we all loved Pier 72.
      The city is dying, this did not have to happen.
      Please open NYC, let us take responsibility for our own lives!
      Thank you

    25. Lee says:

      Ask the coop about their plans for a gym and where it will be located. Ask what their new rent offer was.

      • Otis says:

        First of all, how do you know the coop is building a gym? Do you have inside evidence?

        Second, even if this is true the space belongs to the coop not the neighborhood. If the shareholders want to build a gym in the space where the diner is that’s their right.

      • Boris says:

        Why should the coop be accountable to you? It’s their business if they want to convert the space to something beneficial to their shareholders who will pay to use the space if it were a gym.

      • EGF says:

        With all due respect, it’s none of your business what the rent offer was. This was a private negotiation between two entities. It is unfortunate that they were not able to work out a deal but that’s how it goes in today’s economic conditions. Landlords are not in the business of subsidizing their tenants and this notion that something is better than nothing is ridiculous. It just shows the gross misunderstanding of basic economics in a highly complicated market like NYC. And if you bring up the false notion of landlords getting a tax break on vacant space it only exemplifies your ignorance. I hate seeing all of these businesses close as much as you but it’s our reality at the moment. I believe that once people begin returning to the city on a daily basis, the demand will sky rocket and new business opportunities will be plentiful.

    26. Designaddict10023 says:

      This just f—g sucks

      This is more than a diner … it’s a vital meeting place for seniors living in the neighborhood … truly heartbreaking to see if go and I fear for UWS seniors becoming more and more isolated

    27. Susan Fleming says:

      Isn’t it better to reduce rent to nothing rather than having an empty space? Our family loves Jimmy
      And the whole scene. Having Pier 72 be so convenient
      Must be a plus for the apartment building. Please reconsider!

    28. Anne says:

      I hate to give a bad review, but I thought the food was awful. Sorry.
      I am sad to see any neighborhood place close, but maybe something better will blossom there.

    29. We Deserve A Better UWS says:

      It is time for a change in that spot. Pier 72 is a sentimental favorite for some but the food was not good at all. I was served raw pancakes there without apology. I hope we get something a lot better in that spot. We deserve vastly better food at that location.

    30. Rebecca James says:

      I agree with all the comments about how heartbreaking this is. I stopped by to sign the petition, and they had taken it down. I’m unsure why, but the owner looks devastated.

      Please co-op board, please make a deal with this restaurant. We can’t lose places like this that serve our seniors and create community.

      Please West Side Rag continue to keep us informed and let us know if there is anything else we can do to rescue this critical spot on the UWS.

      • 72 RSD says:

        Based on WSR interviewing the co-op, it sounds like the diner didn’t really want to sign. The co-op offered a break and a short-term lease to bridge the crisis.

        If you’ve been to the diner over the past year or two, it’s not hard to imagine Jimmy was possibly ready to retire anyway.

    31. Steven Barall says:

      Usually if a building has gone coop, the owner of the unsold shares maintains ownership of the commercial spaces and the share holders and the coop board have nothing to do with it.

    32. sandy r,pomerantz says:

      please do not close–you are toooo important to me

      having you here -to just call you.

      thank you

    33. Stephanie Revesz says:

      Not entirely accurate. The demands of the new lease are not affordable during the pandemic restrictions and they include providing an ADA accessible rest room, which would require substantial renovation.
      The coop board could really be more accommodating if they really want Pier 72 to stay.
      This article seems to say the board bent over backwards to help the coffee shop stay open. I don’t think this a fair assessment of the situation.

      • Leon says:

        I have friends in the building, and what they have heard from the board is there was no demand for Jimmy to get an ADA entrance. Why would the board care about whether or not Jimmy has ADA compliance after so many years? They are hearing that Jimmy just wouldn’t sign a lease in this environment, which is understandable.

        Can you imagine trying to buy food and supplies not knowing if you’ll have any customers because it’s too cold, infection rates are too high, etc?

        • UpperWestSider says:

          Responding to Leon:
          If a restaurant makes it impossible for People with Disabilities AND Senior citizens to wash their hands before a meal…it runs against decent public health standards and the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act)) law!
          The staircase leading to their basement bathroom is absolutely treacherous to walk down. It’s a hazard to climb up or down. Shamefully worse than the narrow, steep 17th century canal houses in Amsterdam. A disservice to their customers. Period.

    34. Pilar Gomez says:

      Pier 72 Restaurant serves the best hamburger on the upper West Side. It would help if the Restaurant were opened from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. instead of 3 p.m.

    35. Nina Edwards says:

      This restaurant must be saved it is so special and so unique Please co-op board work something out with the owners so it can remain New York cannot lose this place

    36. Joanne the pragmatist says:

      If their food is so good why didn’t the loyal customers do more takeout? Giacomos across the street always has lines. The sushi place in the middle of the block has long waits for takeouts and lines also. Sugar Bar, the pub a few doors down and Gebhards always have full tables outdoors and they did a nice job in setting up outside and did so sooner rather than later. I agree that hours at Pier 72 were limited, and they weren’t proactive enough to deal with the pandemic. They took way too long to set up the tables outside.

      Look, it is sad to see long standing businesses shut down, but to expect the Coop, who has its own expenses (they have a mortgage and operating expenses) to be the savior, well, that just doesn’t make too much sense.

    37. Joanne says:

      To the board – 100% of nothing is nothing. Make a deal. Save a business that has been part of the heart and soul of this neighborhood for 40 years. I live one block away and I’m on my board. I can’t imagine letting a long-standing business like this close and have to re-lease a vacant space and incur months (or longer) of downtime + leasing costs and free rent.