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Vodka-Fueled Party Spot Sammy’s Roumanian Steakhouse Closes Down

The restaurant may reopen but likely not in its iconic Chrystie Street basement hangout

An exterior of a restaurant with a white sign and blue lettering that reads “Sammy’s” above a basement-level entry door
Sammy’s Roumanian on the Lower East Side
Via Google Maps

Boisterous Lower East Side fixture Sammy’s Roumanian Steakhouse won’t be reopening anytime soon, its ownership has announced on Instagram. The 47-year-old Jewish Romanian restaurant has shut its distinct, basement-level doors — and there’s no clear timeline on a possible comeback.

On Sunday, Sammy’s posted a message on Instagram that confirmed what appeared to be a permanent closure of the longstanding restaurant. “It is with great sadness that we announce that the rumors are true and we have had to shut the doors to the infamous basement,” the message reads.

However, Gothamist reports that owner David Zimmerman “intends to open the restaurant ‘in the future,’” although any future revival will likely involve a relocation from its longstanding Chrystie Street home.

There has been no decision made yet on where to relocate Sammy’s, or when the restaurant might aim to reopen, Zimmerman tells Gothamist. “We got to be somewhat back to normal,” Zimmerman said.

“Our heart breaks for our employees and all the others affected by the pandemic in our community and across the globe,” the announcement on Instagram reads. “It’s truly tragic yet we are extremely humbled by all your support. To survive 47 years is an accomplishment which we are proud of.”

Over the past half-century, Sammy’s attracted legions of diners and celebrity fans for its freewheeling, party atmosphere complete with expensive spreads of latkes, chopped liver, a signature schmaltz on rye, and vodka bottles frozen in blocks of ice. Former New York Times restaurant critic Mimi Sheraton gave the place three stars in a 1982 review; current critic Pete Wells dropped in for a visit in 2014 and deemed it an uneven-yet-lovable one star affair.

The raucous spot is one of many veteran NYC restaurants that are calling it quits amid the pandemic, while a slew of other establishments are choosing to hibernate through the winter rather than rely on takeout, delivery, and winterized outdoor dining to get through the city’s coldest months. The industry has repeatedly called for more state and federal financial aid to support restaurants through the crisis.

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