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Thread: El Teddy's Closed

  1. #1

    Default El Teddy's Closed

    March 7, 2004

    NEW YORK NIGHT LIFE

    Lonely Is the Restaurant That Wears the Crown

    By STEVE KURUTZ

    With its awning of Tiffany glass and a Gaudíesque facade, El Teddy's always seemed more like a museum than a working restaurant. In the end, a museum is more or less what it became. Neither the strong margaritas nor the happy memories they created were enough to keep the place swelled with crowds, and El Teddy's closed weeks ago with little fanfare. Its iron gate is padlocked.

    El Teddy's, a TriBeCa restaurant on West Broadway near Varick Street, had a long and curious history that stretched back to the 1920's. It was once a steakhouse known simply as Teddy's and frequented by the likes of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. In the mid-80's, it became a tapas bar named El Internacional; during that time a Spanish artist named Antoni Miralda sunk onto the roof a 2,500-pound replica of the Statue of Liberty's crown. Later, a restaurateur named Christopher Chesnutt bought the place, renamed it El Teddy's and built its glass awning.

    For years, a picture of the crown appeared on the opening credits of "Saturday Night Live." That connection, along with the fact that prominent artists often gathered at the restaurant, cemented El Teddy's reputation as an unofficial landmark of downtown cool.

    "A lot of times you would go there after a gallery opening," said John Torreano, an artist who has lived in the neighborhood for more than 30 years. "It was nice to sit out in the early spring, when the sun would warm you, and have a margarita."

    As the neighborhood grew populated with Wall Street firms, however, and overrun with what one resident called "the suit people," locals began to go to the restaurant less often.

    Once bustling, El Teddy's was nearly empty for the past year; one regular gravely noticed that the emptied bottles on the liquor shelf were not being restocked. The aftereffects of Sept. 11, 2001, coupled with a benign neglect, proved too much.

    "I loved El Teddy's," Mr. Chesnutt said, "but it's not a museum I'm maintaining for the city at my expense. If you don't support institutions - and this goes for places like the Bottom Line - then they will close." Some years ago, the building's owner, Steven Elghanayan, planned to level the restaurant and build a town house in its place. Several calls to Mr. Elghanayan went unreturned and the structure's fate is unclear. For now, though, the facade and the crown remain.

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

  2. #2

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    Has the TriBeCa area recovered from the effects of 9/11, or is it still struggling? I would think that things would continue to improve as the area and areas around it attract more and more residents.

  3. #3

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    Residential real estate and restaurants are doing OK. Many new retail spaces in new construction and renovations remain unleased, which would not have been the case pre 09/11.

    Early morning in Tribeca, on Franklin St toward El Teddy's on West Broadway.

  4. #4

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    http://www.tribecatrib.com/

    Owner Says Teddy's Crown Up for Grabs

    by Ronald Drenger

    When a giant Statue of Liberty crown was installed on the roof of 217-219 West Broadway in 1985, some Tribeca residents called it an eyesore.

    Sixteen years later, when the building's owner sought approval to tear down the edifice and construct apartments, residents and preservationists tried in vain to convince the Landmarks Preservation Commission to protect the structure, with its famous crown, by declaring it a landmark.

    After a three-year reprieve, the building appears headed for the wrecking ball, and the crown is up for grabs. But it may land elsewhere in Tribeca.

    El Teddy's restaurant, which occupied 217-219 West Broadway for 15 years, closed in January. Last month, Steven Elghanayan, the building's owner, told the Trib that he plans to begin demolishing the structure in the summer to make way for a six-story condominium.

    The crown will be demolished as well, Elghanayan said, unless someone steps forward to claim it.

    "I don't have an attachment to it, but if anyone is interested in having the crown, it's free and they're welcome to it," he said.

    There might be some takers.

    Bob Townley, for one. The director of Manhattan Youth, which runs youth and community programs Downtown, including activities on Pier 25, covets the crown. He wants either to incorporate it into the miniature golf course on the pier or to find a place for it in the development planned for Site 5C, at West and Chambers streets.

    "I don't want to be seen as the town clown, but I think it's an important piece of architecture and a lot of people love it," he said. "It's a symbol of Tribeca."

    The 5C scheme seems unlikely. But putting it on the waterfront-well, Townley has done it before. In 1997 he brought a 40-foot-long model of an iguana to the pier, where it stood watch for 18 months.

    The idea for incorporating the one-and-a-quarter-ton steel crown, and the funky awning from Teddy's, into the miniature golf area came from Maria Reidelbach, who works at Manhattan Youth and is planning an overhaul of the course.

    "We need another bit of whimsy there," said Reidelbach, the author of "Miniature Golf," a book on the game's history with a tour of courses around the country.

    Another potential crown savior is Antoni Miralda, its creator. The Spanish artist and his partner, Montse Guillen, installed the crown when they owned the restaurant at 217-219 West Broadway, then called El Internacional, in the mid-1980s.

    Miralda and Guillen said they would consider trying to bring the crown to Miami, where they live, but would prefer to find a home for it in New York and would gladly collaborate with Townley.

    "It's an icon and it has sculptural meaning," Miralda said in a phone interview from Barcelona, where he is working on a museum project. "I'd like to find an outdoor site, maybe a sculpture park — some way we can have the piece survive."

    But saving the crown will be expensive. "We need a crane, we need a crew, and we need insurance," Guillen said from Florida.

    To put the crown on Pier 25, Townley would need approval from the Hudson River Park Trust. But he is ever the optimist.

    "We're not going to let that crown and the awning go into the dumpsters," he said.

  5. #5

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    http://www.tribecatrib.com/

    Tribeca's Crown Jewel Comes Down

    by Ronald Drenger

    Where Elizabeth Taylor once sipped martinis and mobsters came to dine, Gary Scully now prowled the dimly lit rooms, looking to pry away another piece of Tribeca history.

    He surveyed the musty ruins of El Teddy's restaurant. Little remained. Tables, banquettes, lighting fixtures, the long, shiny bar-almost everything had been ripped away and tossed into a dumpster on the street.

    "The boss told us to throw it all away," Scully said.

    "All" included the building's famous Statue of Liberty crown, which had been cut to pieces with a blowtorch. The crown's five steel spikes lay scattered about on the roof, alongside sections of its base and rusting metal frame.

    "Everyone is asking about it," Scully said of the crown. "A few people walking by on the street have said they wanted to buy it."

    Last month, the building at 217-219 West Broadway, where meals and drinks had been served up since early last century, was gutted by Scully and a crew of workers, in preparation for its demolition.

    There were still a few remnants of the building's former life. The mosaic tiled podium, where managers at El Teddy's had taken reservations, stood in the front room, covered in dust. In an alcove, dozens of glasses, most of them broken, filled a set of shelves behind sliding glass doors.

    Upstairs, mirrors covered the walls of a room where about 100 chairs waited to be trashed.

    The kitchen-where German, then Italian, then Spanish, then Mexican food had been prepared-was a shambles, dark and reeking of spoiled food, most of the equipment gone, the gritty floor stripped of tile, the unplugged refrigerator empty except, inexplicably, for two bottles of capers.

    "When we came in, there were rats all over the place," Scully said.

    The colorful stained-glass canopy over the restaurant's entrance also survived for the time being, and, like the crown, was attracting interest.

    "One guy gave me his cell number and said he would get guys to come and take it," Scully said. "But I haven't been able to get through to him, and he hasn't come back."

    Various people had hoped to salvage the crown or awning. Bob Townley, director of Manhattan Youth, thought about moving them to the Tribeca waterfront. But in the end, nobody was ready to take on the costly and time-consuming job.

    Christopher Chesnutt, who owned El Teddy's before the City Marshal padlocked it in January, said he had gotten several phone calls from people who urged him to save the two distinctive architectural features. He considered salvaging the awning, which he created in the early '90s with artist Judith Robertson, but decided it wasn't worth the effort.

    "Yes, it's too bad, yes, I really like it, yes, it's a shame for it to be thrown in the dumpster, but what am I going to do with it?" he said.

    "We'll probably smash it up," Scully said of the awning. "There would be no other way of doing it. If someone wants to come with a few people to take it away, they can. But it's probably too late."

    After the Teddy's building is demolished this summer, its owner, Steven Elghanayan, will begin constructing a six-story condominium with ground-floor retail, ending the site's colorful restaurant history,

    Teddy Bartel ran the original Teddy's, a German eatery popular with workers, from the 1920s until 1945. Sal Cucinotta, who bought the place from Bartel, turned it into an Italian restaurant and swank celebrity den that attracted movie stars in the 1950s and 60s. The restaurant was also known as a mobster hangout for a time.

    In 1984, artist Antoni Miralda and his partner, Montse Guillen, a chef, created El Internacional, a Spanish restaurant and tapas bar that lasted for two years. It was Miralda who built the 2,500-pound crown and added numerous other funky, artistic touches. Chesnutt opened El Teddy's Mexican restaurant in 1989.

    Donna Perillo, the owner of Sweet Lily nail spa across the street, was saddened by the restaurant's demise.

    "It was really nice, especially at night," she said. "The crown was kind of pretty and it was a great landmark to tell people where we are. Every day, tourists stood on my step taking photos."

    "I'm not so much sad about the artwork being destroyed," said Robertson, the artist who created the stained glass for Chesnutt's awning. "The real sad thing for me is that as a story, that building was so interesting. It's sad to see that story end."

  6. #6
    Moderator NYatKNIGHT's Avatar
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    It was a cool bar and a landmark, and I've had some fun (if not foggy) memories there. Cheers to El Teddys, I'm sad it's gone.

  7. #7
    Forum Veteran krulltime's Avatar
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    I didnt even know it was there until the sad news came...Too bad I didn't have a chance to visit it. :cry:

  8. #8

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    Why did they even close it? It doesn't seem like business would be down way to much..I mean, from what I have hear, the TriBeCa area is booming.

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