For a number of years, we've known the longterm fate of Florent to be in jeopardy—accepted as cruel reality that the perfect neighborhood bistro, a pioneer in the Meatpacking District, would ultimately succumb to a landlord intent on maximizing his lease proceeds in Manhattan's "hottest" neighborhood. But the tragedy has always been a ways off—until very recently, when a new closing rumor surfaced.
The rumor came to Eater, as these things often do, from a well-placed tipster on the inside. In short, the snippet: Florent is closing up shop very soon, possibly even at the end of January. Most signs point to this being highly unlikely, so here's where you exhale. But, then, in investigating this bit, we uncovered something far worse.
Certain retail real estate brokers working on behalf of Florent's landlord, the Gottleib Family (who own a great deal of the West Village and the Meatpacking District), are quietly shopping the Florent space at 69 Gansevoort Street. More than one restaurant owner has been contacted with the offer: ground floor, second floor, backyard and roof garden, for between $150 and $300 a square foot. (Sidebar: there's a roof garden and second floor?)
The timing of a closure is still unclear, even to Florent owner Florent Morellet, who we reached by phone today. He says, "I can't tell you [when we'll close]. Nobody will know until the fat lady sings, as we say. I'll fight with the last bone in my body."
"The rents are high in the neighborhood. Like I've said to a lot of people, I'm optimistic because I believe the world economy will collapse and so might the real estate prices in the neighborhood. Maybe people will get down to reality and realize that the sky's not the limit. We don't know. We'll know down the road. It's not closing yet. Not at all."
· Florent Official Site [restaurantflorent.com]
Update: A commenter points out that perhaps the building is not controlled by the Gottleib's. Rather it's owned by the descendants of R&L, a coffee shop that first occupied the space. Possible, this, but let's be clear: there is a broker shopping the property for whomever the current owner is.