West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933
Volume 77, Number 23 | November. 07 -,13 2007

Villager photo by Clayton Patterson

Darwin Gomez serving up a furter with all the fixings at Katz’s Delicatessan.

Katz’s Delicatessan says sale rumors are baloney

By Lincoln Anderson

Although news articles, bloggers and neighborhood whisperings keep insisting that Katz’s Delicatessan has been bought by a developer, its owners say all the talk is, well, just chopped liver. Last Friday, when The Villager called to inquire if the legendary Lower East Side eatery indeed had been sold, co-owner Alan Dell quashed the rumors like a potato pancake.

Laughing heartily, he said, “You’re talking to the owner. No it wasn’t.”

Dell said, however, that while they would like to take advantage of the property’s copious air rights, they don’t want to do it at the cost of the historic deli.

“Basically, what we’d like to do is to build above, but keep the store below,” he said. “Business is really good. There’s no reason to end the business. We’ve been here so long, 120 years.”

As for what might someday rise above the delicatessen at E. Houston and Ludlow Sts., it possibly could be a hotel or high-end condos, but right now, Dell said, it’s all just speculation.

So is whether a future tower might take the shape of a giant all-beef hot dog — or perhaps a pastrami sandwich, the latter which could be known as The Pastrami.

Dell added they would only sell their air rights for a hefty sum, “like a stupid number — like $50 million.”

Meanwhile, he said, Katz’s is being buoyed by increased tourism from the pathetically weak U.S. dollar. While new construction in the neighborhood — like of The Ludlow, a luxury tower across the street from Katz’s — might be expected to increase business, Dell said that’s not really the deli’s bread and butter. Most of their business actually is not from the neighborhood, but from people coming from out of state and tourists, Dell said.

“What’s really helping at the moment is tourism,” he said. “After Sept. 11, the whole neighborhood closed down for a few weeks. We just brought food down to Ground Zero. Now tourism is back — though not quite like before, despite what the city is saying. We have a pretty good number of tourists. The bulk are from Britain. But also Latvia and Romania — and Thailand. Who ever heard of tourists from Thailand?” Also helping boost sales, ironically, are regular reports of Katz’s demise. The rumor mill has really ramped up in the last six to eight months, thanks to all the false reports, he said.

“It’s really good for us,” Dell said, “because people say, ‘We’ve heard you’re closing next week.’ … They’re coming for their last fix.”

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