Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The End of (Another) Era

Today we learned that another Upper West Side institution is closing its doors - O'Neal's, nee The Ginger Man, a fixture on West 64th Street for nearly half a century and generous host to LW's Candidates Breakfast Forums through the years.  

Saying goodbye to O'Neal's comes all too quickly on the heels of losing the Cafe des Artistes on West 67th Street (in 2009) and, just recently, Gino's on the Upper East Side.  (See Anthony C. Wood's recent blogpost about Gino's closing at www.landmark45.org.)  As places to gather, eat and commune, these restaurants - and their familiar, artful interiors - leave an indelible impression on us all.  Below, a note from Mike O'Neal...


Dear Patrons and Friends,

With this letter I want to let my dear friends and patrons know that sometime at the END OF JUNE we will be bring the curtain down on a long and exciting run.

The O'Neal family has had a presence on West 64th Street for 46 years,  first at THE GINGER MAN and then as O'NEALS'.  It is with much sadness we say goodbye.

Many of you know all the many manifestations we have had over the years,  originally the Ginger  Man, we got good reviews and  we expanded.  Soon we broke through the wall into the Liberty Warehouse and opened the Liberty Ice Cream Parlor, We later turned this room into "the Grill Room", do you remember the beautiful fireplace? Little by little our original home, a renovated garage, became the site of a new building we moved all operations into the warehouse.

In 2001 The Liberty Warehouse was sold and the old owners went belly up. The strict foreclosure that followed terminated our lease with many years to go.

A buyer turned up and made the building a condo.  At this point we considered calling it quits but we held out and negotiated a new lease.  We waited 21 months to reopen.  Meanwhile the building had been gutted.  We rebuild saving many of our treasures and lovingly making a home for them in the new space.

We came back seven years ago, bigger and better than ever.  I think the new place is beautiful and we also build a modern new kitchen which make the food even better.

But along with all the building came "new debt".  At first we did well but when Lincoln Center cut back on their programs and the "world wide recession" up we started to loose ground.  It has come to that point where we have to admit "We bit off more than we can chew".  So rather than further increasing our debt we have made the painful and heart wrenching decision to close.

At this point I want thank all my loyal employees and management staff, who have done a yeoman's job trying to hold the place together, especially I would like to thank my partner Jim Enzel who took all the midnight calls and hand to  endure the creditors flack.  Also my wife Chris and my family they have all suffered through all this  turmoil, without their support I couldn't have made it. And now to all my beloved  patrons and customers I will miss you on a daily basis.  I always loved it when a customer would say "I am so glad to see you busy,  I can never get a table".  Down deep in my heart, I was thinking , "Where were you last Tuesday when there was no one here".

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