via NYTimes Diner's Journal:
April 2, 2008, 11:11 am
It's been widely noted, and widely lamented, that the restaurant Florent's days are numbered. But just how will it go out?
In a telephone conversation last night, Florent Morellet, the restaurant's owner, filled in some of the details.
Beginning on Monday, May 26, and continuing over the five weeks until the restaurant's last day in business - which he said would be June 29, chosen because it’s the Sunday of Gay Pride - it will have a changing series of five themes, reflecting the Kubler-Ross stages of grief.
Week One, he said, would be Denial. Week Two: Anger. Week Three: Bargaining. Week Four: Depression. Week Five: Acceptance.
"I decided to close with a bang," said Mr. Morellet, who opened Florent in 1985.
He said that he himself is already at the Acceptance stage. But, he added, "So many of our customers are either at the stage of Anger or Denial. Some are just in a state of shock. We're going to gather together to go through those stages and celebrate those stages, and end with a bang, and with irony, which we've always done."
Rising rents, of course, are compelling Mr. Morellet to close Florent's doors - and at present, he said, he has no plans to recreate it in another part of the city, the way the caretakers of the Second Avenue Deli did with that beloved establishment.
His long lease on the space on Gansevoort Street that Florent inhabits expired Monday, he said. He said that his landlord wasn't willing to accept the $6,000 a month he was paying, which was well under market rates at this point, or even an increase of triple that amount that Mr. Morellet said he proposed. The Meatpacking District isn't what it used to be, and the property there has a value much, much higher than in years past.
But though his lease has expired, Mr. Morellet said he wanted to keep the restaurant open another three months so it was still there for one more Gay Pride day. He said that he and his landlord hadn't yet settled on the monthly rent he'll need to pay for April, May and June.
For a while Mr. Morellet vacillated between closing on Gay Pride and closing on Bastille Day, which is later, in mid-July.
Why Gay Pride?
"I didn't feel like being Marie Antoinette one more time," he said, referring to his habit of dressing as her every year for Bastille Day. "I've been Marie Antoinette since 1989. And I wasn't sure about an aging Marie Antoinette, because she was chopped at 36 and I'm going to be 55 in June. That is totally uncharted territory."
He said each of the five theme weeks would probably have special dishes, would definitely have specially chosen performers and performances, and would also have its own dedicated, new décor. He made the final-days Florent sound like some sort of down-market, downtown analogue to Park Avenue Spring/Summer/Fall/Winter.
Performers he's reaching out to include Jackie Hoffman - "she'd be great for Anger," he said - and Dirty Martini, who might be stuck with Denial on account of scheduling limitations.
On the subject of some resurrection of Florent somewhere else, he said, "You can't recreate Florent. It happened organically, because of the neighborhood, because of the space. It would be wrong to recreate it, and I realize I'm going to be 55. I don't really feel like running a restaurant."
But he said he could see lending the Florent name to some different kind of establishment that was true to the Florent spirit. He said he has a business partner considering a Florent "in an airport terminal around New York."
"I love the concept," he said, declining to get into specific details. "I love airports. I'm the kind of person who goes to a new terminal just to see it."