From City Room:
This time, Gino’s means it.
On April 17, City Room published a post saying that this East Side restaurant, once a stop for the likes of Ed Sullivan and Frank Sinatra on the see-and-be-seen circuit, might close on May 15. That was based on what the owners had told a meeting with the union that represents the staff.
May 15 came and went, and Gino’s is still open. It signature zebras are still frolicking on the darker-than-royal-red wallpaper.
But last week, one of the owners, Michael Miele, and his lawyer, Paul Frohman, said the restaurant’s last day would be May 29 for sure.
Mr. Miele said the financial picture remained dark. He said the landlord had demanded a rent increase of about $8,000 a month, not including taxes. (A call to the landlord was not immediately returned.)
He also said he had balked at a union demand that he pay an additional $550 a month for health benefits. In return, he said, the union had offered to forgo a holiday, a prospect he found unacceptable. The staff had been working without a contract since November. (A call to the union, Local 100 of Unite Here, was not immediately returned.)
“Us, we can’t make it,” said Mr. Miele, who is in charge of the kitchen at Gino’s. “The money is not there.”
“It’s nobody’s fault,” he said. “Things, they go up. Everything is very expensive. The last couple of years were rough for us.”
There had been rumors in the winter that the billionaire Ronald S. Lauderwould buy into the restaurant.
“I wish,” Mr. Miele said.
He said other buyers had expressed interest. “As soon as they heard the union, they ran away,” he said. “We tried.”
Gino’s, at 780 Lexington Avenue near 60th Street, opened as World War II was winding down. It was named for Gino A. Circiello, who died at 89 in 2001. He had sold the restaurant to Mr. Miele and two other employees in the mid-1980s, but Gino’s remained “frozen in the ’40s,” as the Zagat survey put it in 2002.
“You don’t have to look at the menu — it hasn’t changed in 50 years,” the writer Gay Talese, a customer since the 1950s, said in January, when rumors about Gino’s demise began circulating.
He said Gino’s had once been a gathering place for “ordinary people and extraordinary people, neither knowing who’s who.” He remembered seeingTony Bennett and the opera star Renata Tebaldi at Gino’s, as well as Louis J. Lefkowitz, the longtime state attorney general. And they were not the only boldface names who once stopped in.
“Ralph Lauren would walk in there and peddle ties,” Mr. Talese said. “His brother Jerry is still a regular there.”
Mr. Miele, one of the owners, left open the possibility that he was not getting out of the restaurant business for good. Last week, after a long discussion about shutting down Gino’s, he said: “Please write, ‘Michael says, ‘Arrivederci, but not goodbye.’ ”