BY Terese Loeb Kreuzer
For seven years, the Gate House on South End Avenue at Albany Street wasn’t just another restaurant to a lot of Battery Park City residents. It was their refuge, their club, a place friendly to kids and dogs where people could hang out with friends and neighbors, summer and winter. Yesterday, the Gate House officially closed their doors.
Owner Eddie Yu said that his landlord, the LeFrak Organization, wasn’t interested in extending his lease, and added that he wasn’t interested in extending his lease, either – certainly not at a higher rent than he’s been paying. “I’m losing money the way it is,” said Yu.
He said that he had been thinking of closing during the month of December, and finally reached a decision on January 31.
“I do not blame LeFrak,” said Yu. “As a landlord, you get the best tenant who pays the best rent.”
Yu added, “I believe I was a good tenant.” He said he had never owed any back rent until recently, when he was maybe two months in arrears.
Yu, who formerly owned Fox Hounds across South End Avenue from the Gate House, said that when the financial crisis started in 2008, it hurt his business. When Merrill Lynch and Dow Jones moved out of the World Financial Center, he lost a significant number of customers.
Neighborhood residents became, even more than previously, the backbone of the Gate House’s clientele. In addition to the regulars at the bar, many people came in with their children. “Friday nights, it’s all families,” said Fiona Gallagher, a Gate House waitress. “A lot of the kids have grown up here. We’ve known them since they were babies.”
Gallagher is one of 25 employees who will lose their jobs when the restaurant closes. “My employees are not just employees,” said Yu. “They’re good friends. Some have been working with me 15 or 16 years.”
Still, he said, he wasn’t worried about them. “They’re capable,” he said. He felt confident that they would find other work.
As for himself, he said he turned 65 in October and has been working for more than 40 years. “If I work another five years, I’m 70,” he said. “What difference does it make? I don’t really care. Fight or not fight? I don’t want to fight.”
Yu said that he knew that many of his customers were sad that the Gate House was closing. Some of them, in fact, have started a Facebook page called “Gate House Club House Alumni” where they are posting photos of Gate House parties and their many treasured memories of what some have called Battery Park City’s “Cheers.”
“They’ll find another place to go,” said Yu. “This isn’t a tragedy. It’s a business decision.”