When Joe Jr.'s, a long-running, comfy greasy spoon in the West Village closed its doors July 4th weekend, the neighborhood mourned as if a family member had died. And they are still not ready to let go.
The historic diner on 6th Ave and W12th St. has been owned by the same family for 33 years, and had become a familiar fixture on the block. And one to which the locals had become attached. One regular, who learned of the imminent closing only two days before the plug was pulled, collected 1,500 signatures on a petition to keep the joint open, and a candidate for city council called on the landlord to grant a stay of execution. But landlords aren't politicians, and they don't care how many signatures you present them with.
The owners of Joe Jr.'s and the landlord never found terms they could agree on (the landlord offered only a short-term extension) and the counters and guts of the restaurant were soon torn apart as the staff worked to dismantle it.
The wake was the final weekend where a poster on the door invited the bereaved to share their memories of the diner. Then another sign angrily lashed out the landlord: "Mr. Landlord, You ripped the heart out of this neighborhood!! Bring Back Joe Jr.'s."
That sign was soon torn down (likely by the landlord) but another sign printed with "Bring Back Joe Jr.'s" in block letters soon went up. The neighbors are gathering to support their defunct dive in every way they can, even congregating on Facebook in a sad display on a fan page called "Friends of Joe Jr.'s" and on a funereal Flicker page.
You probably wouldn't be far off if you thought that many of the people making such a fuss over the closing probably didn't eat at Joe's. They just liked that it was there -- a cutesy New York landmark they could point to. If all this outpouring had come in the form of people eating at Joe Jr.'s the place would have been a cash cow and probably wouldn't have closed.
The shuttering of a neighborhood place can feel sad, but there are those who tend to go overboard, literally bemoaning "Where are we going to eat now?" as if the last restaurant in the world had closed. These are the people wailing at the funeral of an aunt they hardly ever talked to. Or take for instance, this overwrought comment on evgrieve.com that sounds like Sylvia Plath eulogizing a hub cap: "the city vanishes, and vanishes, and vanishes.....darkness all over town."