Alas! It seems that M. Wells is not long for this world.
A little more than a year after they opened their genre-defying diner on the edge of Queens, Hugue Dufour and Sarah Obraitis have announced that they will be closing the restaurant at the end of August. The culprit, as is so often the case, is apparently the landlord: According to a message the couple sent to friends, he was demanding “astronomically high rent, a short length of lease and a strict buy-out clause.”
Dufour and Obraitis are vowing to remain in Long Island City and to “have you back for brunch as soon as possible.” In the meantime, we will keep our fingers crossed that Long Island City will somehow offer up yet another chrome-sided railroad diner, not to mention a better landlord. The full letter, which was originally posted on The Hungry Tiger, appears below.
Greetings from M. Wells, that offbeat diner in Long Island City. As many of you know it’s been an exciting (and sometimes challenging) opening and we are grateful for all the support and encouragement you’ve extended us since we opened last year. Neighbors and tourists and everyone in between have really warmed up to us. In short, we’ve managed to brighten up a forgotten corner with a dusty diner and build for a lovely home for ourselves.
On the heels of our first anniversary, however, we regret to share with you sad news: M. Wells is preparing to close at the end of August. We are in this precarious position because we took the ambitious and risky decision to open M. Wells without long-term stability on the property. The landlord allowed us to occupy the space for a little over a year.
We went for it. The space was charming, we lived across the street and we had faith in Queens. And, of course, we hoped that we would work out an arrangement that solidified a future. Alas, we have not been able to strike an agreement with the landlord.
His proposal included astronomically high rent, a short length of lease and a strict buy-out clause. Nothing on the table offered us a favorable environment in which to continue to do business. After several months of trying to negotiate, we relented and accepted the fact that we weren’t meant to remain his tenants.
While this is devastating to the people who love our food, and more importantly the more than 20 employees who’ve dedicated countless hours of overtime, our spirit will not be crushed.
We look forward to keeping you posted with better news. We again thank you for believing in us and we hope we can count on your support in the future.
One thing is for sure, we will stay in Long Island City and we will have you back for brunch as soon as possible.
And in the end, all will be well with M. Wells.
Sincerely, Hugue & Sarah
UPDATE: An employee of the restaurant told The Wall Street Journal that “we have another location, it just has to get refurbished and everything. It’s in Long Island City.”