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Chelsea's 'Empire Diner' Forced To Close Again Amid Rent Struggles

By Maya Rajamani | December 17, 2015 4:04pm
 The iconic Empire Diner in Chelsea shuttered its doors for a second time on Dec. 13 after falling behind on its rent.
The iconic Empire Diner in Chelsea shuttered its doors for a second time on Dec. 13 after falling behind on its rent.
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Flickr/Professor Bop

CHELSEA — The Empire Diner has shut its doors for a second time after falling behind on its rent.

The diner at 210 Tenth Ave., between 22nd and 23rd streets, which appeared at the beginning of Woody Allen’s “Manhattan” and saw myriad celebrity patrons pass through its doors, first closed in May 2010.

It was replaced by a short-lived eatery called “The Highliner” in 2011 and reopened under its original name at the beginning of 2014 led by a team that included "Chopped" judge and "The Next Iron Chef" contestant Amanda Freitag.

But after the diner’s ownership failed to pay four months’ rent, it was forced to vacate its Tenth Avenue location and served its last meals on Sunday, Eater reported, citing TMZ.

Although the report referred to the diner’s financial troubles as “ironic,” given Freitag’s new gig starring alongside Ty Pennington on the Food Network show "American Diner Revival," Freitag, a Chelsea resident, told DNAinfo she “had no involvement with the diner” after she parted ways with her partners in July to focus on "Chopped," "American Diner Revival" and her cookbook launch.

“I haven’t spoken to my partners. I don’t know why they made [the decision to close] or why they discontinued rent payments,” she said.

Freitag, whose team took over the lease for the diner in the fall of 2013 after the Highliner closed in 2012, called it a “big decision” to separate from the project.

“There were many, many reasons, and it’s heartbreaking when a project like that doesn’t survive,” she said. “I still live in that neighborhood, I love that neighborhood and I hope it doesn’t stay empty too long and that somebody does right by that spot.”

She said she is currently in the process of finding jobs for the employees she hired when the revamped Empire Diner launched in 2014 and has managed to place “most of them.”

The original Empire Diner served patrons including “Chelsea residents, actors, police commissioners, athletes, gangsters, such luminaries as Madonna, Barbra Streisand, Steven Spielberg, and anyone carrying a New York City Guide Book” for more than 30 years, according to a statement the diner’s then-general manager and executive chef posted on its website when it first closed in 2010.

Popular items on the original menu included staples such as meatloaf and mashed potatoes, chicken with gravy and linguini with meatballs.

Freitag said that while she could see herself launching a future food project in the New York City area, it is unlikely to happen in Chelsea.

“I would love to do something in the neighborhood because it’s still growing and wonderful, but… the rents are unmanageable,” she said.

Attempts to contact the diner’s current management on Thursday were unsuccessful.