Popular NYC restaurateur Gabriel Stulman’s Bar Sardine — a cozy, 28-seat neighborhood gastropub in the West Village — will permanently shutter at the end of August. Stulman announced the closure on Instagram, citing failed lease negotiations during the pandemic as the reason for the shutdown.
“After months of trying to find an arrangement with our lease that would allow us to survive as a business under the current conditions we operate — alas we couldn’t find a lease arrangement that would work,” Stulman said in the post.
In an interview with Eater, Stulman declined to provide further details about the lease negotiations but says that his situation was similar to many other operators across the city. Bar Sardine launched a takeout concept called the Corner at the beginning of the summer, opened for outdoor dining on the sidewalk when allowed, and has been offering delivery. It wasn’t enough. “It’s the same story that you’ve been reading, writing, and reporting on,” Stulman says. “How do restaurants survive on full rent with limited occupancy?”
Bar Sardine originally started out as a Japanese izakaya named Chez Sardine before pivoting in 2014 to its current gastropub form. The restaurant was known for its ambitious cocktail program, and diners also lined up for a top-selling burger layered with smoked cheddar and cucumbers and slathered in barbecue mayonnaise. The restaurant will remain open for outdoor dining, takeout, and delivery until August 27.
Stulman says that he’d “love” to bring the restaurant back after the pandemic, but for now, he’s focused on leading “a rescue mission” to keep his other eight restaurants afloat as federal aid from the Paycheck Protection Program dries up. He’s tracking the progress of a new bill, the RESTAURANTS Act, he says, which would provide additional forgivable funding to restaurants during the pandemic.
“As sad and painful and frustrating as all of these emotions are, there are so many people who have it so much worse,” Stulman adds. “I believe that our government has failed to address the problems that everybody is facing in this. We failed to address [restaurants]. We’ve also failed to address everything, it seems.”