CHELSEA — Longtime West 23rd Street eatery East of Eighth closed suddenly this week due to the "challenges" of running a restaurant, its owner said.
Half-filled glasses and beer bottles were still scattered across the bar at the 254 W. 23rd St. space near Eighth Avenue at midday Thursday.
A sign hanging in the restaurant’s window simply said the restaurant was “forced to close it's [sic] doors.”
Restaurant owner David Feldman simultaneously shut down his catering business, Benjamin Catering, which had operated in the city since 1974, catering director Kim Warren said.
In an email, Feldman said East of Eighth "could not keep up wit [sic] the higher wages and overtime regulations."
"The staff was unwilling to cooperate with the recently enforced regulations," he wrote. "Business was great but couldn't withstand the challenges of operating a single unit restaurant."
Employees speculated that Feldman was planning to file for bankruptcy, but he didn't address that in his email.
East of Eighth was known for the photos of drag performers that lined its walls, along with drawings of patrons and employees, Warren said.
Several works of art created by drag performer Hedda Lettuce were on permanent display at the restaurant, according to her website.
A second catering company employee, who declined to give her name, said the restaurant had been around for more than two decades.
“It’s very unfortunate — it’s definitely going to be missed,” she said. “It was a neighborhood gem, essentially.”
Another restaurant owned by the Feldman family, Benjamin Restaurant & Bar in Kips Bay, shuttered abruptly in October, with a note on the door blaming factors including “strains put onto small neighborhood restaurants,” the economy and “unmanageable labor laws."
Feldman’s Gramercy restaurant Mumbles, meanwhile, closed a year ago for a “multitude of reasons,” including waning business and rent, he told Town & Village.
In his email Friday, Feldman said it was "a shame to have to say goodbye" to East of Eighth.
"My family started with Mumbles in 1974 and has been successful for 42 years," he wrote. "East of Eighth will be sorely missed and I feel blessed for all the outpouring of loyalty."