When you call the popular UES French Bistro Chat Noir, a recording explains that the restaurant is temporarily closed due to a gas leak in the building and that customers will be alerted when it reopens. But after a three-month struggle with city authorities and insurance companies, owner Suzanne Latapie has decided to close the more than 11-year-old restaurant at 22 East 66th St. for good.
Bistro Chat Noir opened in 2006, but even before then, Latapie was quite well-known in the industry and the neighborhood. She started as a server in Midtown French restaurant Cafe Un Deux Trois and eventually worked at UES French fixture La Goulue for a decade after that, first as a hostess and then as a manager. With her experience, Chat Noir became one of the French bistros that attracted the neighborhood’s social types, with cozy banquettes and classics like duck magret and rack of lamb.
“It is so horrible, I’ve tried everything,’’ says Latapie. Con Ed had turned off her gas because of the leak, and she has been on a crusade to reopen, even looking into building an electrical kitchen when the prospect of redoing the building’s gas pipes proved too costly, she says.
But that was also prohibitively expensive, and she felt that the quality of her dishes would suffer, she says. Latapie plans to auction off everything on Thursday to help pay vendors, from the wine to chairs to kitchen equipment.
”It feels like a death in the family, but I just had to walk away,’’ she says.