Volume 78 / Number 2 - June 11 - 17, 2008
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since

Mixed Use

By Patrick Hedlund

Au revoir, Brigitte
A diminutive French diner that operated on Greenwich Ave. near 11th St. abruptly announced its closure last week due to rising rents after 50 years in the neighborhood.

Chez Brigitte, which has served Latin-infused French favorites out of a closet-sized West Village space since 1958, shuttered with little fanfare last Friday after chef/manager Rafael Ballinas told Mixed Use that the space’s cost had doubled.

Original owner Brigitte Catapano, a native of Marseilles, France, opened the restaurant in the late ’50s before eventually handing it over to a partner, who imbued it with its more recent Latin-tinged flavors. Ballinas had been working in the kitchen for the past seven years, serving up French favorites on the cheap and offering a familiar face to local customers. He said that many patrons came by the inconspicuous eatery last week to bid farewell, but that Brigitte had no plans to open up in a new location.

The 300-square-foot property is now being marketed by Walker Malloy & Company, Inc., said the brokerage’s director, Anastasia Meyding, who has been entertaining offers from high-end cafes, luncheonettes and wine bars. She said the asking rent was $7,500 per month and that the new owner would look to capitalize on its proximity to St. Vincent’s Hospital.

“It’s a tough space to lease,” Meyding said of the tiny storefront, noting of Brigitte’s closure, “it’s hard to serve eggs and coffee and pay $7,500 a month.”

Another nearby neighborhood favorite, Italian restaurant Sapore, closed earlier this year after a decade at 55 Greenwich Ave. Owner/chef Giovanni Tafuri was prompted to flee the neighborhood after his own rent doubled.

“I think it’s going to backfire,” said Tafuri, who has watched his former West Village space sit empty for nearly six months while he’s been focusing on his newest restaurant, Sette, in Park Slope. When affordable, locally focused restaurants like Sapore and Chez Brigitte leave, he added, “who suffers is myself and the neighborhood.”

Outfitting Hudson Square
While new office tenants have been moving to Hudson Square in droves, the accompanying boutiques and restaurants have been slower to follow suit in the still-somewhat-sparse West Side neighborhood. But the area’s retail reputation got a boost with last week’s announcement that high-end haberdasher Atelier had inked a long-term lease for a store on Hudson St. in a move from Soho.

The luxury menswear shop, which has been located on Crosby St. just south of Houston St. for the past five years, will take over 3,453 square feet of space at 304 Hudson St., between Spring and Vandam Sts.

Atelier will inhabit a larger total space in Hudson Square, despite leaving a prime location in retail-rich Soho. The store inked its 10-year lease with landlord Trinity Real Estate, with rents in the mid-$40s-per-square-foot range.

“We are more of a destination shop,” said Luigi Borrata, a manager at Atelier, noting Hudson Square’s reduced rents as one reason for the move. “Of course, we’re depending on foot traffic, as well.” That pedestrian activity will be bolstered by incoming media tenants, such as Newsweek magazine, with new offices at 395 Hudson St., and a 22-story, mixed-use hotel/office planned for 330 Hudson St. Atelier’s new address was formerly home to the notorious nightclub NV, which shuttered in 2005, and the clothier plans to be in the new space by mid-August.

“Hudson Square is a really up-and-coming area,” Borrata added, pointing to the convergence of train stations in the neighborhood. Of the area’s current lack of shoppers, he said, “I’m sure that will change over the next couple of years — hopefully.”

“Hudson Square’s creative workforce is naturally appealing to a trendsetting retailer such as Atelier New York,” said Trinity Real Estate president Carl Weisbrod in a statement announcing the deal.

Garett Varricchio of Trinity represented the owner in the transaction, and Susan Penzner of Susan Penzner Real Estate represented Atelier. 

Hog Pit ’packing it in
Steve Madden is the next high-profile designer to move into the retail-hot Meatpacking District, as the men’s and women’s shoe purveyor will supplant the space currently occupied by biker bar/barbecue joint The Hog Pit.

The news comes after speculation that designer Ralph Lauren was looking at both the dive bar’s spot on Ninth Ave. near 13th St. and Florent Morellet’s soon-to-be-vacated space at 69 Gansevoort St.

Hog Pit owner Felisa Dell, who opened the no-frills saloon in 1995, said the arrival of nearby clothier Jeffrey to the area about 10 years ago set off a chain reaction of upscale retailers opening in the former Meat Market.

“When Jeffery moved in, the fashionistas followed,” Dell told Mixed Use, referring to high-end boutiques like Stella McCartney and Diane von Furstenberg. “Thanks Jeffrey, you d—k.”

The Hog Pit will close for good in January, when Dell said rents at her restaurant will have risen to $40,000 per month. So to take advantage of her little time left in the neighborhood, Dell will be hosting a breast cancer benefit and auction for St. Vincent’s Comprehensive Cancer Center on June 23.

“The reason I’m doing this is because I had an existential crisis,” admitted Dell, a breast cancer survivor, of how the disease affected her life after being diagnosed in late 2006. “I still can’t believe it happened.”

The same could be said of her honky-tonk, which Dell noted she’d paid just $1,500 a month rent for when she opened 13 years ago.

Local artists have donated their works for the auction, which, as well the raffle items, also includes free food and beer donated by the restaurant, jewelry, gift baskets and gift certificates courtesy of local retailers.

‘Die Hard Yuppie Scum’
Another salvo in the battle for the Bowery has been fired, this time from vengeance-seeking neighbors protesting new area businessman Bruce Willis’s wine bar and its apparent right-leaning affiliations.

The feud has played out on the pages of the New York Post’s Page Six, where local activist John Penley initially called out “right-wing Republicans opening yuppie wine bars in our neighborhood,” referring to Willis’s Bowery Wine Co. on E. First St. and the Bowery.

The New York Young Republican Club, which held a monthly social at Willis’s enoteca, shot back with their own reply in the Post, challenging Penley to a duel. He responded in kind a few days later with his plans to demonstrate in front of the establishment, and fliers promoting the protest tagged with the headline “Die Hard Yuppie Scum” have recently been popping up around the East Village.

Penley plans to gather with neighborhood activists and personalities — including performance artist Penny Arcade, Reverend Frank Morales of St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery and L.E.S. Jewels — this Friday at 8 p.m. The event will lead up to a planned pig roast named in Willis’s honor for the upcoming 20th anniversary of the Tompkins Square Park riots.

But even though protesters plan to gather “as close to the bar as the police will allow us,” don’t expect Penley to be swilling a Sancerre inside before the demonstration.

“You might find me at the Mars Bar beforehand having a couple of drinks,” he said of the wine bar’s antithesis on E. First St. and Second Ave. “I only patronize old-school dive bars in the neighborhood anyways. If the Young Republicans have the balls to meet me at Mars Bar, I’ll be there early and buy them a drink,” he dared.


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