FLATIRON — Dewey’s Flatiron was forced to close after 18 years in business after the landlord refused to renew the bar's lease, the owner said.
Edward Dobres said he spent six months trying to negotiate with his landlord at 210 Fifth Ave., Dewey's longtime home, but he finally had to shut down in December.
"I tried everything," Dobres said. "I really thought [the landlord] would change their minds, but they said it wasn't a matter of money. They just said they wanted to go in a different direction."
Dewey's, which opened in 1996, served 24 beers on tap and casual American fare like burgers and salads. There were daily happy hours, including Saturday specials offering women free drinks.
"We are a victim of our success," Dobres said. "We were here when people did drugs in [Madison Square Park] and when shootings and stabbings happened all the time. We were the first beacon of civilization here."
While Dewey's is gone, this isn't the end for Dobres, who has already signed a lease for a space at 100 W. 30th St. between Sixth and Seventh avenues, where he plans to open a three-story bar and restaurant called Madison Square Tavern in May, he said.
The 7,000-square-foot restaurant will be more upscale, with a bar on every floor, 36 beers, plus wine on tap and party rooms. The venue will serve American fare made in two separate kitchens, one dedicated to gluten-free menu items, Dobres said.
“Now, I’ll go take out a loan on my house again and start from square one,” Dobres said. “But I think I know what I’m doing better this time.”
Dobres is overseeing construction on Madison Square Tavern while still mourning the closure of Dewey's, which he had fought hard to keep open. He said he pushed his landlord for a 15-year lease, offering to pay nearly $35,000 a month in rent and promising to spend $1 million on a renovation, but his landlord still refused to renew his lease when it expired last April.
“When I offered to pay double my rent and they said no, it was kind of like a punch to the gut," Dobres said. “Everyone thinks they’ll get a crazy amount of rent here, but you can’t expect people to spend $15 on a beer."
The building’s owner, Manocherian Brothers real estate agency, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Dobres was able to stay in business past the end of his lease after taking his landlord to court last spring. He then won a deal allowing Dewey's to stay open for an extra six months, under the condition that Dobres pay an additional $10,000 per month.
"It's what I had to do to keep my employees employed," Dobres said.
Dewey’s served its last drinks on Dec. 22, and Dobres had to lay off his 25 employees and auction off all the bar's furniture, he said.
"[The auction] is the hardest thing," Dobres said. "I felt like I was a carcass getting picked clean."