A socialite and philanthropist who has been called a “publicity seeker” is now using her platform to try and keep Le Cirque open.
The family-run French fine dining institution will be closing its 151 East 58th Street space after New Year’s Eve, and the Maccioni family has yet to finalize a new location to reopen the more than 40-year-old restaurant. A recent Bloomberg story notes that the restaurant is still losing money since it filed for bankruptcy earlier this year.
Now, Jean Shafiroff — a frequent diner at the restaurant who’s hosted society luncheons there — says she’s launching a “Save Le Cirque” campaign online to drum up support for the restaurant. Shafiroff held a solo press conference in front of the restaurant on Wednesday, and she has bought the URL savelecirque.com, though she has not yet built a website for it or created any social media profiles or online petitions.
“I love Le Cirque. I love the family, I love the food,” Shafiroff says. “It’s a New York landmark as far I’m concerned.”
As of Wednesday evening, nobody else had signed on to the campaign yet, but she’s hoping to bring people on to show potential new landlords — or potential investors — that the restaurant has a following, she says.
“My goal is to keep Le Cirque around,” she says. “If they’re intent on closing and made an arrangement to leave, I understand that. But I want to group together to get them going to the next restaurant, and not have a whole two, three year wait.”
Shafiroff says she wants to work with the Maccioni family and will support them in whatever they need. In an email statement, Mauro Maccioni wrote: “We appreciate her affection but are not involved.” The family, which also has Le Cirques in other cities, is adamant about reopening the flagship restaurant elsewhere, likely in a smaller space.
In January, the Times profiled Shafiroff — noting that her aggressive publicity tactics have attracted “society side-eye, causing some to question whether her primary motive is philanthropy or publicity.” But Shafiroff responded that publicity is what helped her advance causes for charities she supports. In Le Cirque’s case, she argues that her presence could potentially help keep the restaurant alive in New York.
Le Cirque has graduated some of the best chefs in New York and has been known for being a destination for high profile celebrities and politicians, but it certainly hasn’t had the best press in recent years. It’s gone through a bankruptcy, a social media controversy after the restaurant hosted Donald Trump, a high-profile chef departure, a sexual harassment lawsuit, and a wage lawsuit.
This week, Bloomberg noted that the restaurant lost more than $40,000 in August. And in a lengthy recap of the the seminal restaurant’s celebrated past, columnist Steve Cuozzo wrote that “Le Cirque’s party animals have been jumping ship for a long time.”