LOWER EAST SIDE — The Olympic Restaurant is closing Monday after 35 years on Delancey Street — and to say goodbye, owner Spiros Nakos is offering everything on the menu for half price on the last day.
Nakos said he wishes he could do more to thank his longtime customers, but he just learned on Monday that this would be his last week, when the city sent him an eviction notice saying he had to leave so that the diner's building can be demolished to make way for the massive Essex Crossing development, Nakos said.
"I'm upset. I can't sleep," said Nakos, 64, who opened Olympic Restaurant at 115 Delancey St. at the corner of Essex Street when he was 30. "I’m just starting to realize that after four days I won’t be in business no more.”
On Monday, Nakos will offer the diner's omelets, sandwiches, gyros and burgers for less than $5, and cups of coffee will cost as little as 50 cents. He said he considers his five-person staff "like family," especially since most of them have worked at the restaurant for at least a decade.
After the Olympic's last day, Nakos will spend the next week clearing out the building, which will be torn down for the $1.1 billion residential and commercial development at the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area, located on nine city-owned blocks that have been left mostly vacant since 1967. Construction is scheduled to begin in spring 2015.
Although Nakos' business was doing well, he knew that he wouldn’t be able to stay on the Lower East Side forever, he said, explaining that he had watched the neighborhood gentrify and become a safer and more attractive place to visit.
Still, the city’s decision to force him out, almost a year before construction is scheduled to begin, makes him angry.
“They’re throwing me out for no reason,” Nakos said. “That’s why it makes me very upset.”
He said he asked the city to let him stay until the end of the year, but officials refused. The city gave him an extension earlier this year after his attorney fought a previous eviction notice, Nakos said. This time, though, he couldn't get an extension.
Nakos said the city also told him that he would not be offered a new space at Essex Crossing.
Essex Crossing developers referred questions regarding commercial tenants to the city's Economic Development Corporation, which did not respond to requests for comment.
Longtime Olympic Restaurant customers said they were sad to hear it was closing.
Crystal Penn, 59, and Angela Brown, 55, called the restaurant a “beautiful place” as they walked away from the diner after a meal. Olympic Restaurant is a neighborhood landmark, they said, where locals chat with the staff and celebrate birthdays.
“Whatever they’re building, they should build around it,” Brown said.
"Exactly!" responded Penn, who said she had been a customer for more than 30 years.
“I don’t want it to go,” she said. “It’s like a home away from home.”