Keith McNally and his family are closing Schiller’s Liquor Bar in August after 14 years on the Lower East Side. The restaurant at 131 Rivington Street opened in 2003 and became one of the neighborhood’s mainstays.
In an announcement to an email list, the McNallys said that Schiller’s has reached the end of its lease and will close in August. “We send our thanks to every single customer and staff member and look forward to seeing you all at the next place (TBA)!” the email says.
Eater has reached out and will update with further information. Update: Sophie McNally tells Eater in an email that they were offered a new lease, but the rent was too high for them. “We simply cannot afford it,” she writes.
In an interview in the fall, McNally noted that the restaurant, along with Lucky Strike and Cherche Midi, does not make any money, but he keeps them open because he likes them and their staff.
Schiller’s is one of the more divisive restaurants in the McNally empire. Reviews for the food itself from chef Shane McBride were middling over the years, including a particularly brutal Twitter takedown from Times critic Pete Wells.
But for others, Schiller’s has always been about more than the food, and those who loved it saw it as a quintessential neighborhood restaurant, where the atmosphere mattered just as much (if not more) than the menu. The casual vibe and checkered floors made it one of New York’s iconic dining rooms. Even in Wells’ negative review of the restaurant, he wrote: “I enjoyed myself more than I have at far better restaurants.”
Eater co-founder Lockhart Steele wrote a defense of the restaurant shortly after Wells’ evisceration — calling Schiller’s “one of New York’s great restaurants.” Steele used to refer to the restaurant as his living room, noting that the room itself that makes it “imbued with the very soul of New York City.” The restaurant also made an appearance on Saturday Night Live title cards and inspired novels.
Stay tuned for more.