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Florent Watch: The NYT Tribute to the Shuttering MePa Institution

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Today the Times runs an epic tribute to Florent, the 23 year-old Meatpacking District staple that will be closing on June 29th. Since it's been around so long in such a dynamic neighborhood and because its owner, Florent Morellet is a huge figure in both the restaurant industry and in the neighborhood in general, the closing strikes a major chord with people who have been dining out— and partying hard— in the city for the last quarter century. The Times gathers quotes from local notables including former food columnist Hal Rubinstein, Calvin Klein, Spike Lee, and a smattering of waiters and hostesses. The highlights:

Florent's first review: "MR. MORELLET: I didn’t want any press. I was so scared because I’d seen so many restaurants opening with a bang, big media, blah-blah-blah. And it’s a disaster. MR. RUBINSTEIN: ...the review came out, and I remember being home on a Saturday night, and the phone rang at about 8 o’clock, and it was Florent, furious. Furious. MR. MORELLET: After he wrote it I called him and yelled at him and I said, 'Listen!' I put the phone up to the din of the dining room, which was really loud, and hung up."

Florent on being H.I.V. positive: "It actually became one of my lines. When customers were aggravating, I would say, 'You know I’m not going to lose one T cell because of you.' Let me tell you, that really shut them up."

On the 80's Crowd: "JACKIE HOFFMAN (actress and stand-up comedian): It was kind of like the halfway house of restaurants. If there was a pre-op tranny or someone who just wasn’t finished yet, or a burn victim — anyone could go in there and not be judged. It had a safe haven quality to it."

Florent as a center for politics: "MR. KLEIN: He would always talk about some cause he was promoting. He got me to sign on to something — I didn’t know what I was signing on to. It turned out it was to protest the Richard Meier buildings that were going up in the neighborhood. And I was already committed to being on three floors of the Meier buildings. And now I was on a list protesting them!"

On the Changing Nabe: "SPIKE LEE (filmmaker): I’ve been going to Florent since 1986, whenever I can. But the whole neighborhood changed. Before it used to be transvestites and transsexuals on every corner. Now? Forget about it. Gansevoort Street, that whole area — it’s crazy. It’s like everything else in New York. It’s like SoHo and everything else that gets 'hot'. And I put that in quotations. 'Hot.'"

The Shuttering: "MR. MORELLET: We were fighting my landlord and I was angry and still somewhat in denial until we settled out of court on April 4. When I came to that, when I arrived that day, I wanted to settle. It’s about moving on. Since that day I’ve been able to move on and to get my troops at the restaurant to move on. We’re going to go out with a big bang. But we’re going to go out with an ironic, absurdist, Dada-ist big bang."
· Florent Watch: Florent's 5 Stages of Shuttering [~E~]
· Florent Watch: Morellet Goes to Court, Faces New $70K Rent [~E~]

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