Historic Front Street used to be known as the Financial District’s Restaurant Row. Barbarini, Made Fresh Daily, Salud Tapas, and a slew of other restaurants fed neighbors, businesspeople, and each other. Most shared a landlord, the Durst Organization, whose underground electrical systems were flooded during last fall’s hurricane and caused a blackout of all buildings supported by the grid. The company owns 95 residential and 13 commercial units near South Street Seaport, and all are still without power and the phone lines are disconnected.
Made Fresh Daily and Jeremy’s Ale House are two eateries on the block that are privately owned — and have independent electrical systems — so they didn’t suffer the same kind of grid damage, and are open for business. But Barbarini, like a number of other restaurants, has ended its lease with Durst and is closed for good. The Historic Front Street storefronts banded together for a crowdfunding effort at the end of January, but only Jack’s Coffee and Nelson Blue were able to meet their fundraising goals. Barbarini raised just over $2,000, when it needed $20,000.
Made Fresh Daily was able to reopen around Thanksgiving when few others in the area could even turn on their lights. “This street was never really a destination because there’s no real reason to go north of the Seaport,” said Jacqueline Goewey, one of the organic bakery’s owners. “Now people just have to come here for us.” In order to maximize efficiency, Goewey and her team tweaked the menu at Made Fresh. Specialty sandwiches like the crab-and-artichoke melt are now only available once or twice a week.
Down the street, Cowgirl Sea-Horse, which began serving food again at the end of November, is doing the same. Its lunch menu features less expensive salads, po’ boys, and tacos. Larger entrees like baby back ribs and enchiladas are saved for dinner to cut costs. The lack of foot traffic has weighed heavily on the entire area. “The neighborhood is way off,” Maura Kilgore, the Sea-Horse’s general manager, said. “We’re 40 percent off from last year.”
High-profile spots like Luke’s Lobster have been able to get back on their feet after rebuilding almost completely. The seafood mini chain reopened its William Street location on Thursday. According to Kilgore, many of her neighbors are working toward an April reopening date (businesses were awarded Downtown Alliance grants only if they agreed to reopen by April).
Stefano Barbagallo, one of Barbarini’s owners, said his Italian restaurant was “completely destroyed” by six feet of flooding. Like other businesses on the block, Barbarini had no flood insurance, and did not meet all the requirements to be eligible for grants from the Downtown Alliance. But Barbagallo is already planning his next culinary venture, which he wants to open in the Financial District.
“I invested seven years of my life in that area,” he said. He’s not interested in starting over in another neighborhood. “Maybe we’ll open a place with flood insurance next time.”
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on February 27, 2013