NOHO — Hours after rumors began swirling that the Great Jones Cafe would shutter for good Wednesday after 34 years, diehard patrons flooded the restaurant's small quarters at 54 Great Jones St. to raise a glass to the end of an era.
But the beloved cafe, which has been serving up Cajun comfort fare since 1983, may live on after a brief closure, employees said.
"That's just a rumor," said longtime bartender Artie Reinitz, when asked about the closure while single-handedly fixing drinks for a densely packed bar.
"We're closing for a week and we're reassessing," he continued, unable to say whether the spot would definitely reopen.
A sign hung in the window Thursday morning signaling the closure but stating the spot "hope[s] to re open soon."
A sign in the cafe window indicates the restaurant may reopen in the near future. (DNAinfo/Allegra Hobbs)
A waitress working Wednesday night's dinner rush, who declined to share her name, was more vague about its future, saying the eatery was shuttering for an unknown period of time due to proprietor James Moffett's health.
"The owner is not in good health and we are closing indefinitely," she said. "It may be a week, a month, a year — we don't know."
Moffett did not immediately return a request for comment.
EV Grieve published a report Wednesday, attributed to several anonymous tipsters, that the cafe would close that evening. Former general manager Bill Judkins told the blog back in March that he had been ousted amid disagreements over the cafe's direction. Judkins could not immediately be reached for comment.
Other news sites quickly circulated news of the purported closure.
Patrons who packed into the cafe Wednesday evening were under the impression that night would be the neighborhood mainstay's last.
"It's breaking our hearts!" exclaimed neighbor Jim Martin, who had been frequenting the cafe since it opened in 1983, recalling watching the LAPD chase O.J. Simpson's infamous white Ford Bronco a decade later on a small TV hanging over the bar.
"I brought my daughter here a week ago," he said, noting he had no idea at the time the cafe was in danger of closing. "We just sat and had a great meal."
Another longtime local said he had stopped by for a meal a week ago after some time away from the city and his heart sank when he noticed some of the spot's furnishings had conspicuously gone missing.
"I came in a week ago and the jukebox was gone, and we were like, 'What's going on?'" recalled Jack, of the East Village, who declined to share his last name. "Then I noticed a lot of things were gone."
A photo of rocker Nick Cave dining at the cafe that once hung on the wall had been removed, he said.
"They told us they were revamping," Jack said. "It was disappointing... the jukebox was amazing. It had the best songs. It had great character and great music."