Volume 20 Issue 3 | June 1 -7, 2007

Is there virtue in a diner closing, Socrates might have asked

By Jennifer Milne

After 25 years at 101 Hudson St., Socrates Restaurant closed its doors Sat., May 26, to the surprise and sadness of many patrons.

On Tuesday, would-be diners, unaware of Socrates’s sudden closure, walked up to the glass storefront emblazoned with the restaurant’s name in red and gold script. They tried the door, only to find it locked shut. Workers inside packed up food and cash registers in boxes.

“It’s too bad it closed,” said Ken Reisman, a Tribeca resident. “I used to come here every now and then in the mornings to get eggs.”

Socrates, a popular Greek diner, was known for its burgers and won “Best Tribeca Burger” in 1997 from the New York Press’s Best of Manhattan contest. A person answering the restaurant’s phone refused to comment, but manager George Dourountous left a goodbye note taped to the front door of the restaurant from him and the rest of the staff.

“To all of our loyal customers and friends,” Dourountous wrote, “Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end! Socrates has served Tribeca for 25 years. Even before most people knew where Hudson and Franklin Sts. [were]! (When the ‘area’ was still the Washington Markets produce / butter / egg and cheese distribution area for Manhattan.) We thank you for your loyalty and all the wonderful friendships we have made over these past 25 years which we will always remember and [cherish] as a quarter century of memories! We wish each and every one of you the very best for and in the future! Take care, God bless, you will be missed.”

“I used to come here all the time for the milkshakes because there was no other ice cream in the area,” said John Flaherty, who works at 390 Greenwich St. “I was here only three weeks ago.”

Guy Leveille, who does renovations in Lower Manhattan and Tribeca, remembers celebrities eating at the diner.

“I’ve come here since the time when J.F.K. Jr. used to come here,” Leveille said while standing outside. “I came for breakfast and lunch. It’s a really reliable place. It’s a shame it had to close.”

Rising rent costs in the Tribeca area have forced out other businesses as well. The Sporting Club Bar and Grill next door at 99 Hudson St. closed its doors two years ago.

Vincent Barile, manager of Bubby’s across the street, said he heard Socrates’s rent was raised to $5,500, a figure that just wasn’t affordable.

“Tribeca’s become the richest part of Manhattan,” Barile said. “It’s making businesses like Socrates impossible.”

The once occupied space at Socrates and the Sporting Club Bar and Grill will remain as storefronts, said a broker with CB Richard Ellis, which is managing the property. The rest of the 15-story building at 99 Hudson will remain offices, but the interior is being renovated and a canopy will be built over the entrance, said the broker, who requested anonymity.

Current tenants like the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund are not being asked to leave the building while the renovations progress, said Stanley Mark, a lawyer with AALDEF.

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