Broadway’s favorite restaurant, Joe Allen, has decided to take a “little hiatus”; El Centro and Cantina are “going into hibernation”; Dolly Varden made a brief appearance and is now taking a break; On the Rocks has been waiting it out since March; and Casellula has headed to Texas until Spring. Others are fighting on…

Joe Allen has struggled to get early outdoor diners. Photo: Phil O’Brien

Joe Allen on Restaurant Row closed its doors for the first time since 1965 in March. It re-opened on October 15 to rousing applause from its faithful Broadway clientele. However, yesterday they decided to take a break again. Their last dinner service will be tomorrow, December 5.

Since re-opening, the restaurant had scaled back its hours to 4 days a week and tried to entice in early diners with deals like “5pm Good Time Eating”. However, there is not enough business to justify them continuing to open.

“With COVID cases on the rise and a slushy NYC winter barreling down on us, we’ve made the decision to hibernate until the time is right,” shared the Joe Allen team on Instagram. “We’ll be back. Broadway will be back. Wait for it.”

Support for their struggle came in from celebrity customers, along with empathy from fellow business owners.

Actor Jimmy Smagula told us: “We love you Joe Allen and we will be ready for delicious meatloaf and banana cream pie when you return!”

“Ugh. I get it. Geez I hate all this,” messaged Cast Party’s Jim Caruso on Instagram (a sentiment shared by many).

Alec Baldwin tweeted his disappointment: “Shit. I’m heading into town soon.”

“Trying to figure out what is right for each of our businesses is such a challenge with so many changes, almost daily,” said Charlie Marshall from The Marshal. “Joe Allen is a staple, and I wish them all the luck in the world; they have to do what they think has the best chance of keeping the business afloat, long term. Hopefully, more stimulus will be forthcoming so we can all keep people employed as we go through winter.”

Daniele Kucera from Etcetera Etcetera shared: “I had the same thought since the business has collapsed after Thanksgiving. But I would like to endure, if only for all the regular clients and friends who come weekly or for those ordering daily or weekly since March. It is extremely hard, since there is no City or State help with rent and real estate taxes. If we get help on those two items, we would be in a much better position. I really hope we and all other small businesses in the food and art world will get Federal help soon. If not, it will damage New York for years to come.”

“We are going to stay the course and stay open and we hope that people will still want hot coffee, lots of things made with chocolate, and smiling eyes above our face masks to welcome them in January!”

“We at Mom’s Kitchen empathize with the hard choices our friends and neighbors in the industry are facing. With harsh weather fast approaching and limited support and guidance from the city, owners and operators are facing some heart wrenching and truly tough decisions,” said General Manager Nathaniel Allen. “Our hearts and best wishes go out to Joe Allen and their team. They are so right; Broadway will come back, New York will be back, a true renaissance is just around the corner; just wait.”

Franco Lazzari from Viceversa said: “It is really sad to hear about Joe Allen’s hibernation.
It is has been a landmark restaurant for decades on W46th Street, and Viceversa has been open for more than 21 years in Hell’s Kitchen on W51st Street. We’re staying, and they will be back!”

“Winter is a tough challenge to deal with. Low temperatures make it very hard to manage, high cold winds, monthly electricity bill, the cost of setting it up, technicians, the threat of snow, cleaning up, and security to protect what you invest. That’s why I understand some places won’t want to deal with all of that,” shared Luis Garcia at Arriba Arriba. “Despite this, we will go as far as we can. Since the COVID emergency started, we are putting every single dollar back into the place so that we can make something out of nothing.”

Amy Scherber from Amy’s Bread messaged us, saying: “I am sorry to hear Joe Allen is closing but I know that many more places will follow their lead. The winter will be really tough with limited indoor seating, cold weather, and the usual downturn in business that hits every January. It will be very slow. We are going to stay the course and stay open, and we hope that people will still want hot coffee, lots of things made with chocolate, and smiling eyes above our face masks to welcome them in January!”

“It will be a tough couple of months. Let’s stay strong.”

“We completely understand Joe Allen’s decision and sympathize with them and very, very much look forward to their return. It makes little sense, financially, emotionally, healthwise, for a restaurant to stay open outside in the winter. The costs are high and the benefits few,” said Maya Joseph from Sullivan Street Bakery. “I don’t think people realize how much restaurant traffic and revenue has decreased. It’s terrible! The city keeps saying someone else should help, and the state says the federal government should help, and meanwhile, restaurant workers and owners are really not okay.”

Bruce Horowitz from 44 & X told us: “Things here have gone from bad to worse. We can completely understand their decision to close for now. We are still open for business and going to do our best to remain so. Like everybody else, we are waiting for a bit of normalcy soon.”

Corey Samuels, co-owner of Kashkaval Garden told us: “I think with PPP funds near exhausted and no clear idea from the government whether more funds will be forthcoming, many places in our neighborhood, and around the country, will have little choice but to do the same. Delivery and take out for many of us isn’t enough to cover even the basic operating costs. It will be a tough couple of months. Let’s stay strong.”

Meanwhile, Corey’s neighbors on 9th Avenue — El Centro and Cantina — have closed for the winter. “We are going into hibernation with these places until spring,” said owner John Dempsey. “We’re continuing to operate on 9th Avenue at our sister restaurants on the corner of W51st — ‘Ritas, Hell’s Kitchen and B-Side Pizza. Please come and support us there in the meantime.”

Outdoor dining space at El Centro — now in hibernation. Photo: Phil O’Brien.

At the end of September, the Grand Central Oyster Bar reopened, and then closed within 12 days — adding to the list of pandemic restaurant casualties. They said at the time: “We will come back stronger and with an even bigger desire to serve you.”

A new cocktail bar, Dolly Varden, opened at the end of October. However, they told us today that they have decided to take a break until normal business returns. “We totally understand Joe Allen’s situation as we have had to make the same decisions,” shared their general manager, Jason Jeffords. “On top of COVID, we were a new restaurant, and it was just not the right time. The area is quiet, and a majority of the business is gone. You can’t open every day and lose money, business doesn’t work like that so you make choices that you hope will give you more time.”

Brian Keyser took a decision in late summer to keep Casellula, his cheese and wine bar, closed. “With temperatures dropping and cases rising, I’ve gone into hibernation myself, curled up in the family cave in Texas,” he told us. “Hopefully spring, or at least summer, will allow us all to poke our heads out and see something approaching normalcy!”

Howard “Howie” Ostrofsky, owner of whisky bar On the Rocks, took a decision at the start of the pandemic to stay shuttered until there was a vaccine. He told us today: “I miss my bar and my crowd that drinks with me. I’m patiently waiting for the COVID-19 vaccine. That should enable everyone to reopen.”

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1 Comment

  1. We at Don Giovanni Ristorante have been struggling at our 44th street location since covid but we are trying to hang in there. It is a juggle between our locations and dealing with the constant changes that the state and city execute.
    We are very sad to hear of any restaurant in our community that closes and are praying for the best.

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