clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Le Perigord Shutters After 53 Years to De-Unionize

New, 26 comments

Owner Georges Briguet plans to reopen it as a new restaurant later this year

Le Perigord Bess Adler

Old-school French fine dining restaurant Le Perigord has closed its doors after 53 years on the far east end of the Upper East Side. Owner Georges Briguet, who bought the restaurant two years after it opened in 1964, says that he closed it because he could not reach a deal with the restaurant employee union after four months of negotiations. He plans to reopen as Restaurant 405 in about six months as a non-union restaurant, named after the 405 East 52nd Street address.

Briguet says that the restaurant could not afford the additional costs for healthcare and pension that the union requested, particularly considering the rising minimum wage. According to him, the new deal would have required him to pay an additional $80 per day, per employee — a cost that would ultimately mean about $12,000 more-per week in extra costs. “We would have to increase the price of the dinner too much,” he says. “We have no choice.” The union, Local 100, did not immediately respond to request for comment. Update appended.

When Briguet reopens as a new restaurant, he plans to rehire his former employees without the union, with French food similar to the kind that Le Perigord serves. It will not be until at least August, which is how long he must legally wait in order to reopen without the union, he says.

It's with bittersweet emotions that we decided to close the restaurant last night. Le Perigord first opened in 1964 and...

Posted by Le Périgord Restaurant on Sunday, March 12, 2017

The famed restaurant is one of New York’s classic restaurants serving haute French cuisine. Briguet is known for being a legendary fixture at the restaurant, always donning a tuxedo. People like Truman Capote, Jackie Kennedy, and Nancy Reagan have dine there over the years, as well as some of history’s most controversial politicians, like Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger, and a pre-presidential Donald Trump.

Briguet and the restaurant have similarly seen their share of controversies and missteps. In 2015, he pled guilty to a felony tax charge and was forced to pay the IRS nearly $170,000 in restitution. That same year, an employee sued the restaurant for unpaid wages, a case that was ultimately settled for $90,000.

Restaurant unions are becoming increasingly rare in New York City; those that remain include La Grenouille, the Oyster Bar at Grand Central, Smith & Wollensky, and 21 Club. They’re far more prominent in restaurants that are in hotels and stadiums, which tend to be easier to organize due to larger staffs. One of the most high profile wins for a restaurant union happened for an Upper East side location of bakery Hot and Crusty, but after the outpost became Brod Kitchen, it closed — prompting protests and ultimately the closure of a second location of the Nordic bakery.

Update: Local 100 organizer Mike Feld tells Eater that he’s been negotiating with Briguet since last year, and the owner’s been clear that he’s not happy with the increases. But Briguet never told them that he would close the restaurant if they didn’t reach an agreement. The staff did not find out that the restaurant would shutter until last Thursday, Feld says. “Frankly, we’re used to getting more notice,” he says.

The union also did not know that Briguet plans to reopen the restaurant without unionized employees. Feld says he’s happy to go back to the negotiating table with Briguet. They’re watching the location and still want Briguet to rehire his former employees, many of whom had worked at the restaurant for “a very long time” — even if it means being non-union. “Look, our goal is for them to be employed,” Feld says.

Former Briguet employees will be meeting on Wednesday to try and find other jobs within the union’s network, which is made up of many stadiums, corporate cafeterias, and old school fine dining restaurants.

Le Perigord

405 E 52nd St, New York, NY 10022 (212) 755-6244 Visit Website