Updated — Inside the basement level space of Growler Station on West 8th Street a computer remains on, brightly lit, waiting for somebody to return to start serving its craft beers again. On the door is a “Rent Demand” sign dated September 3, 2013 stating that $51,000 in back rent is owed to the landlord, due immediately. The last post on the small business’s Facebook page is from June.
Growler Station opened in the spot between MacDougal and Fifth Avenue in January 2012; the parent company operates similar businesses in other states. The NYC space is still listed on their web site but it’s unlikely they will be opening again soon. Such is the troubling state of small businesses aspiring to get off the ground in New York City and particularly the Village.
A few doors down, Apple Cafe Bakery opened and closed after a year in business; that spot at 24 West 8th is now home to recently opened Wisconsin’s 5 oz. Factory. Rabbit in the Moon closed on the other side of the street after a short time operating. Portland’s popular Stumptown Coffee has been open in its first full cafe in NYC since mid-May at MacDougal and West 8th and seemingly could help turn the tide for other businesses on the strip — not soon enough, it appears, for Growler Station.
A yogurt spot, Culture Yogurt, which originated in Park Slope, Brooklyn and consists of milk from upstate NY cows (as in “local”), is now open closer to Sixth Avenue and seemingly each week a new business appears. Windows boast signs of what is forthcoming (Japanese pancakes!). We heard the term “artisanal” bandied about and that is what the street is getting. Longer term tenants Uncle Sam’s Army-Navy Store, Lomography and Economy Foam seem securely in place. The hat place next to Payaya King closed earlier this year and, stunningly, Barnes & Noble, at Sixth Avenue’s corner, closed at the end of 2012.
After the suspicious fire at Hong Wah laundromat at 176 MacDougal Street in February, a “for rent” sign appeared in March. There is construction going on currently. I was told an independent retail store is coming.
Washington Square News, NYU’s student-run daily paper, featured a story earlier this week, “Small businesses in Village cannot withstand rent increases,” and within it covered the closing of University Diner on University Place after close to 70 years. (This blog covered the closing and advent of fledgling “Neighbors for a Viable Village” here.)
Further down the block, the owner of Knickerbocker Bar & Grill, which has been in its location one block from the park since 1977, told Washington Square News that he’s worried for the future of the restaurant. Knickerbocker co-owner Ron D’Allegro stated, “I think the rent issue in the area is what has led to the breakdown of the Village. This breaks down the flavor of the neighborhood and it cycles down. Though many people try to open restaurants, very few survive. We are hanging in there, but I don’t know [for] how much longer.”
Since this struggle to survive amidst humongous rent increases has all accelerated under the Bloomberg Administration’s policies – this signals to me that there should be some appropriate remedy proposed. Perhaps some studying of this major issue by “City Planning” is in order but it’s almost too late – they can’t keep pace with what is already underway. (And then again, this is also the administration that didn’t appropriate new schools in neighborhoods as they approved building development after development and endless re-zonings with no apparent concept of preparing for the impacts from this.)
Can landlords be reasonable in Mayor Bloomberg’s New York or should they attempt to make as much money as possible, even if this means ousting long time tenants? What are the terms now, when seemingly principles and long-standing relationships don’t seem to mean that much?
Did Growler Station announce they were closing one summer day or did they realize they just couldn’t make it, and departed swiftly in the middle of the night never to return? That glowing computer screen seems to indicate so.