The future of Ignacio Mattos and Thomas Carter’s Upper East Side restaurant Flora Bar might get cut short.
The critically acclaimed — but recently under fire — upscale seafood restaurant is housed in the basement of the Met’s contemporary arm Met Breuer, and the museum announced on Friday that it would be handing the lease of the space over to art museum the Frick in late summer 2020. It’s not yet clear whether Flora Bar would stay in the space with the Frick, with a Met spokesperson telling Eater “it’s too early to identify the specifics.”
Apparently some people think that the whole Met Breuer endeavor was a financial misstep for the Met, according to the Times. Notably, the expansion meant that the storied museum had “to divide its resources at a time of financial distress and to invest heavily in upgrading the building’s restaurant.” A Department of Buildings permit to renovate the restaurant estimated the cost of the project at $2 million, with another estimated $314,000 for plumbing changes. In total, the museum spent about $12.95 million upgrading the entire Met Breuer building.
That seems like a lot of money, but running the Met Breuer reportedly costs $18 million a year. And the planned handoff to the Frick means that the Met will save $45 million — which will help the Met to renovate its contemporary galleries in the main building to the tune of $500 million. The buildout for Flora, despite its price tag, did not impact the Met’s decision to nix its lease three years early, the museum tells Eater.
Flora Bar has been well-received, earning two stars in the Times; both Mattos’s seafood and pastry chef Natasha Pickowicz’s desserts have gained acclaim. The restaurant group Matter House, though, has been criticized recently by more than two dozen former staffers for bad work culture in light of the #MeToo movement — with employees alleging that Carter created a “culture of fear” over the years. The restaurateur has since stepped away from day-to-day operations.
Flora opened in 2016 and followed the company’s restaurants Cafe Altro Paradiso and Nolita small plates hit Estela. The Met’s collaboration with the Frick is “still in formation,” according to a Met spokesperson, and will not go into effect until late summer 2020. Until then, Flora Bar definitively remains in place at the Met Breuer.