Though Cafe Loup’s fate still hangs in the balance, New York’s literary scene has been crying over its potential demise already over the last 24 hours — showing the restaurant’s niche place in West Village and in the city’s publishing world.
The restaurant was seized by the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance and now owes $188,394.40, according to a rep from the department. Multiple requests for more detail to longtime owners Lloyd Feit and Adres Quinn Feit have not been returned, nor have emails to the management team, Harry DeBari and Nancy Hom.
In the New Yorker, writer Sadie Stein asks what an NYC without Cafe Loup looks like in her tribute to the restaurant. Open for over four decades, the bistro — though not known for its food — has nonetheless become a staple, particularly in the literary world due to its proximity to several publishing houses as well as universities. Stein writes:
It wasn’t one of those venerable spots that made your heart hurt because every visit could be your last. You didn’t feel you needed to keep it “secret,” if you were the sort of person who likes to hoard restaurants, and it didn’t have the obscure, ironic cachet of its neighbor, Spain. It was that much rarer New York luxury: a place that allowed itself to be taken totally and completely for granted.
The restaurant attracted celebrities and respected writers — including a recent visit from Fran Lebowitz — but folks on Twitter echoed the sentiment that it has remained unpretentious and welcoming through the years. It’s known for consistently big pours and laid-back vibes, an old-school style of neighborhood bistro. The stories pouring out over social media have been heartfelt and deeply personal, showing just how special Cafe Loup has been to those who frequent it.
This summer, I lost a dear friend to cancer. I’d never experienced a friend’s death before. I’m still not sure where to put that kind of grief. We used to meet for dinner every 2 or 3 months, always at Cafe Loup. Everything is temporary. If you love someone or something, say so. https://t.co/wZ0GioZNMA— J. Courtney Sullivan (@jcourtsull) September 19, 2018
After emailing each other for 7 months across the Atlantic, my future wife & I finally met in person at Cafe Loup in Manhattan, a few weeks before 9/11. Donna is gone over 2 years, and now so is Cafe Loup. But I'm still here and I know everything that happened there mattered. https://t.co/pkTfOB8Oua— Wes Eichenwald (@Pogoer) September 20, 2018
No, no, no! This is our local refuge! I brought my son there as an infant & he rested on table in a clean, towel-lined dish tub while we ate- so kind to a new Mom. Cafe Loup, a Lasting Fixture in NYC’s Literary Scene, Has Been Seized by the Tax Department https://t.co/HDlX4iW5Fk— Rachel Lavine (@RachelLavine2) September 20, 2018
To many, if Cafe Loup does indeed shutter, it will be the end of an era:
It is hard to believe and accept that Cafe Loup is gone. Say it isn't so. Pay the taxes. Whatever. Don't vanish. Very sad.— Lynne Tillman (@glossitis) September 20, 2018
On a lighter note, novelist Mark Doten has taken matters into his own hands by demanding that extremely rich people — like Jack Dorsey, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Peter Thiel, and Elizabeth Holmes (though her net worth is more questionable) — pay Cafe Loup’s outstanding taxes. Desperate times call for desperate measures.
It has also been suggested that devout regular Patricia Clarkson take over. The actor, whose home is reportedly near the restaurant, is known to visit regularly; in a 2010 interview with the Times, she’s even photographed in the space.
guys: patricia clarkson should buy cafe loup— Sam Biederman (@Biedersam) September 20, 2018
The news seemed sudden, but sounds like writing may have been on the wall for Cafe Loup. In the New Yorker, Stein hints at some behind-the-scenes drama at the restaurant that predates the tax seizure, including the divorce of a pair of owners and a trade of hands for the business during which longtime servers departed. In March, rumors also swirled that a longtime bartender named Jay had been fired after four decades by new management.