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Chelsea Landmark Empire Diner Sets Closing Date for May 15

Flickr/Professor Bop

Just about a month after Chelsea icon The Empire Diner went on the market last fall, news broke that the owners of Coffee Shop in Union Square had signed on to take over the space. The original owners of the Empire didn't go quietly—they said the landlord had raised the rent but they were still hoping to work out a new lease—, but it looks like the battle is finally over. According to a note on their website, the diner will close on May 15.

The Coffee Shop team has said they will keep the look of the place the same but plan on tweaking the menu to add a "Coffee Shop flavor." See the full goodbye note from the people at The Empire Diner below.

After more than thirty years of serving Chelsea residents, actors, police commissioners, athletes, gangsters, such luminaries as Madonna, Barbra Streisand, Steven Spielberg, and anyone carrying a New York City Guide Book, the Empire Diner has lost its lease and is closing its doors May 15th, 2010.

Renate Gonzalez and Mitchell Woo are facing the bittersweet task of closing this iconic New York institution on 22nd and 10th while actively looking for sites to open a new Empire Diner.

The search is on for appropriate real estate in and around New York City, as well as abroad, on which to develop both new Empire Diners and Burger Rebels eateries.

Inasmuch as the Empire Diner will no longer be in its original location, the plan is to bring the Empire Diner Experience to neighborhoods around the world.

The Empire Diner was closed and nearly abandoned in 1976 when three young New Yorkers-Jack Doenias, Carl Laanes, and Richard Ruskay, renovated the former greasy spoon on then-grungy 10th Ave. and turned it into the landmark restaurant it has become. With its Chrome and Black interior, traveling marquee lights, outdoor café, flashing “EAT” sign, and stainless steel Empire State building silhouette, the Empire Diner became a major force in the Chelsea Renaissance that allowed art galleries, hotels, and other restaurants to replace the machine shops, gas stations and auto parts stores that then dominated the landscape.

After the passing of Doenias and Ruskay, surviving partner Carl Laanes sold the operation to Executive Chef Mitchell Woo and General Manager Renate Gonzalez. Renate had come to the Diner in 1986, Mitchell in 1980. Both have been hands-on owners and are deeply saddened to have to leave their professional homes of over three decades.

Mitchell and Renate hope that friends, customers, and anyone with a lead on a suitable site will leave word here for them. Interested people will be kept informed of progress in the News section of our web address.
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· The Empire Diner [Official Site]
· Chelsea's Empire Diner Set To Close Next Month [Gothamist]
· All Empire Diner Coverage [~ENY~]

The Empire Diner

210 Tenth Ave., New York, NY