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Stomach pains for 7th Ave eateries

The Brooklyn Paper

The neighborhood’s collective stomach is growling.

Seventh Avenue — once Park Slope’s restaurant strip, but since supplanted by hipper Fifth Avenue — is losing restaurants at a rapid clip as rents climb and restaurateurs, who operate at notoriously thin profit margins, fail to keep up.

A walk down Seventh Avenue from Flatbush Avenue to 15th Street revealed at least one empty storefront per block (sometimes more), many of them the sites of former eateries.

In the past year, Seventh Avenue has lost Inaka Sushi House, at Fourth Street; Maggie Moo’s, between First and Second streets; Tempo Presto, at Third Street; Laila at 15th Street; Little Village, between 10th and 11th streets; and the Second Street Cafe, a beloved brunch spot that made headlines when it closed.

And though not on Seventh Avenue, the New Prospect Cafe on Flatbush and Eighth avenues, long associated with Park Slope, has also closed.

Tempo co-owner Michael Elliott, whose flagship restaurant is on Fifth Avenue, said he closed his Seventh Avenue offshoot because business could not keep pace with the soaring rents.

“The rents there were Manhattan rents,” said Elliott, whose landlord was charging more than $10,000 a month for the prime space that once housed a Carvel. “We would do a good lunch crowd and a decent after-school crowd. But after dark, it really dried up. Business has drifted toward Fifth Avenue.”

Restaurant business has, anyway, with more reasonable rents on Fifth Avenue making the neighborhood’s ne’er-do-well boulevard the new Smith Street.

“Fifth is now known as restaurant row, especially our stretch, between Union and First streets,” said Elliott. “We just see a lot more night life here. That’s not the case on Seventh.”

Roslyn Huebener, of Aguayo and Huebener Realty, agrees with Elliott’s assessment.

“A restaurant has to do really well to make it on Seventh Avenue,” said Huebener.

“It’s because the landlords want top dollar,” she added.

Like Elliott, Ted Gordon, the owner of the late Second Street Cafe, blamed his restaurant’s demise on the growth of Fifth Avenue as a culinary destination, and on escalating rents.

“Lunch and brunch were fine, but you can’t run a restaurant on that alone,” said Gordon at the time. “And with the advent of Fifth Avenue becoming restaurant row, and increased rents...”

Indeed, according to Gordon, his landlord jacked up his rent 25 percent to more than $12,000 a month. When Gordon opened 11 years ago, rent was $5,000 a month.

Now, said Gordon, the only businesses that can afford Seventh Avenue are “cellphone stores, banks and real-estate offices.”

Indeed, Bank of America has opened two ATM outlets — one at Ninth Street, the other at Union Street — and will soon take over the D’Agostino site between Sixth and Seventh streets.

Huebener agreed that rents may be too high for family run eateries.

“When the rents come into this level, it does make it harder to rent these spaces,” she said.

The owner of Sette, the Italian wine bar on Seventh Avenue and Third Street, said the only reason he’s been able to survive is because he has the rare reasonable lease.

“Rents are killing business along Seventh Avenue,” said Giovanni, who declined to give his last name. “That’s why all these places are closing down. On Seventh, the landlords think they can ask these crazy prices.”

But there are businesses willing to pay, according to Ron Saltarrelli, a real-estate broker at Warren Lewis Real Estate, who said he’d received 20 calls about the old Tempo Presto spot.

Meanwhile, Allen Brafman, president of the Park Slope Chamber of Commerce, said the recent closures and rising rents are all part of the normal business cycle and that ultimately, rents would sort themselves out.

“Periodically, there are a fair amount of empty storefronts, and then they disappear,” said Brafman, who both owns and rents property along Seventh Avenue. “It’s just the cycle of business. We’ve been on Seventh Avenue since 1978, and the question of high rents has been asked every four to five years.”

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Reader Feedback

Tina from 5th Ave, Park Slope says:
No, it's just greedy landlords - I feel like leaving this miserable place.
Feb. 28, 2008, 3:21 pm
Gwen from Park Slope says:
But it hasn't stopped there - what about Cocette on 5th Ave? Beso close not too long ago - leaving a note that said it was not due to rising rents - but with so many places closing what do I need a bank for? Even if I take out my money, there will be nowhere left for me to spend it!
Feb. 29, 2008, 12:55 pm
Wanda from Park Slope says:
It's terrible that all these great mom and pop stores are closing. It saddens me that the character of Park Slope is dying. All the cute and creative little stores that were here 15 years ago are no longer because of the high rents. It's really a shame. Pretty soon we will be a neighborhood of banks, RE offices and fast food chains. It's killing the ambience of the neighborhood.
March 9, 2008, 3:09 pm
Alexandre Barbier from Park Slope says:
Isn't it ironic that banks are taking over 7th Avenue? Will people be just going there to deposit the money they would have otherwise injected into Park Slope's local economy? Since when is a bank a destination place?

Oh well, what goes around is bound to come around. The very landlords who swarmed to new mortgages on equities they though they had eventually will default and hand their assets back over to guess who. And "who" will in turn sell them at a loss to wiser business owners unwilling to hedge their bets on rental fees any longer!
May 8, 2008, 8:44 pm
HipHopSays from Forte Greene says:
it saddens me to see so much of what gave the neighborhood its character disappearing...ironically the abundance of bankfronts/RE spaces does not 'draw' me to them. it would have been nice if the d'ag could have been converted to a fairway/whole foods/ gristedes .... but instead i have $3 surchage (as versus the 1.75 at most bodega's)....
May 27, 2009, 11:53 pm
Beth from BAY RIDGE says:
Well its 2010,it saddens me that RESTAURANTS AND SHOPS ARE STILL CLOSEING DUE TO RENTS GOING UP.I BELIEVE PARK SLOPE IS BECOMING MANHATTAN I LOVED PARK SLOPE AND ITS CHARM.ITS A SIN THAT THE REAK ESTATE OFFICES ALMOST ON EVERY BLOCK ARE PUSHING ALL OF THE MOM AND POP SHOPS OUT.I HAVE MET SO MANY NICE STORE OWNERS.IS IT WORTH MOVING BACK TO PARK SLOPE DUE TO ITS CONTINUING CHANGE? MY RETURN TO THE OLD PARK SLOPE WAS ALWAYS MY DREAM.NOW THERE IS GOING TO BE THE NETS COLISIUM TO BE BUILT WHAT NEXT?
June 19, 2010, 12:31 am

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