MIDTOWN — Midtown's Oyster Bar auctioned off everything from the industrial stoves to the wooden fish mounted on the walls on Monday, after owner Ajit Saha said he was forced to close the 55-year-old restaurant because of rising rents.
Rent for the nautical-themed eatery's longtime home at 54th Street and Seventh Avenue more than tripled over the past four years, leaving Saha, 52, with no choice but to shut down the restaurant for good Sunday night, he said.
"Four years ago, the rent was $12,000," he said. "Now we pay more than $30,000."
The closure was first reported by Jeremiah's Vanishing New York.
Oyster Bar's red neon lights had shown brightly on the corner for decades, but they were lit for the last time Sunday, as longtime customers stopped by to say goodbye.
"The place was packed last night," said Frank Ward of Auctions Direct of New York, who ran Monday's auction and was previously an Oyster Bar regular. "It's sad. His heart and soul are in this business."
Saha became a partner in the restaurant in 2003 and took over as the full owner in 2010, after Oyster Bar founder Angelo Agmonostopoulo died.
During the auction, all of the restaurant's plates, glasses, silverware, decorations and cooking equipment were up for sale. Items that weren't sold by Thursday would be added to auctions for other businesses that close, Ward said.
"There's a lot of closures," he said. "There's probably three or four auctions a day here [in New York]."
Residents feared that Oyster Bar's shutdown could mean another New York mainstay will be replaced by a tourist trap.
"It’s the rent, they’re killing everybody in the neighborhood," said Jerri Trenelli, who lives nearby. "They’ll probably replace it with another junk shop.”