Chelsea's Iconic Empire Diner in Lease War

Monday, Oct 26, 2009  |  Updated 1:30 PM EDT
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Chelsea's Iconic Empire Diner in Lease War

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This is a total bummer.  The Empire Diner, a Chelsea landmark and 24-hour comfort food joint, is up for lease --- and its precarious fate is drawing comparisons to the sad closures of the Cheyenne and Moondance diners in recent years.

But there was a bit of good news today.  Eater.com reports that though the landlord has raised the rents on the owners -- during a recession, no less, and regardless of the fact that they have worked at the diner for the last 30 years and owned it for the last 10 -- a negotiation might be in the works. Landlord and owner are apparently trying to hammer out a deal before the lease is up at the end of 2009.

The listing for the Empire Diner space at 23rd and 10th, which has 3,000 total square feet of ground floor and basement area, doesn't reveal the rent or takeover price. There's no word on what terms the landlord might negotiate.

The Empire Diner is a staple for many late night Chelsea revelers and early morning brunchers. It has also made appearances in such films like "Home Alone 2, Men in Black 2, See You in the Morning, Igby Goes Down and TV shows Law & Order and SNL.

Modeled after a gleaming, black-and-white Art Deco train car, the Empire Diner is a nostalgic nod to the forties, even if you're there at 3 .m. after a night of clubbing on 23rd street.

Should a deal not be struck to save the Empire, there's fear that the diner could go the way of the Moondance Diner in SoHo, which was shipped off (on flatbed truck) to Wyoming.  The Cheyenne Diner found its way to Birmingham, Alabama (yes, it sees like it should have been the other way around).

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