BY JON CRONIN
Briarwood’s Flagship Diner, one of the oldest diners in New York City, may face a hastened departure, according to one of its owners.
Since the new owners of the diner’s property, Whitehorse Management, had its plans approved for an apartment building in June, the diner’s owners believe that they are being forced out of the building, located at 138-30 Queens Blvd. Currently, the diner has until October 2019 to vacate the premises.
According to the diner’s owners, Whitehorse Management is planning to demolish the commercial building and erect a mixed-use, seven-story building. According to the city Department of Buildings’ website, Whitehorse Management filed to demolish the one-story building last summer.
Jimmy Popplo, one of the diner’s owners, said that he and his two partners have received four “notice to cure” letters since June from Whitehorse Management, in which they have been given five days to fix various issues at the diner and provide proof that they are not in violation of the lease.
“It’s a lot of legwork. [The developer] started in as soon as he got his plans approved in June,” said Popplo.
Popplo added that he needs to continuously document with photos the progress of the work that was completed or the fact that no work needed to be done and the diner is in compliance with Whitehorse Management’s requests. If work was done, Popplo has to produce an itemized list of the work and receipts from the companies that completed the work. Then, the receipts and photos have to be presented in court. Popplo said that all of these steps make it difficult for the owners to operate the diner.
Popplo said that the diner’s lawyers have served a “Yellowstone Injunction” to Whitehorse Management that would prevent the landlord from serving more “notices to cure” on the diner.
The diner is also receiving help from state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), who plans to attend the diner’s press conference at 11 a.m. on Sept. 12, during which the diner’s owners will argue that the landlord is taking “predatory action” against the eatery.
The diner also has a petition for customers to sign for the diner to stay open as long as possible. As of Sept. 1, the petition had nearly 2,000 signatures.
Popplo said that with the petition and injunction, “maybe [the landlord] will want to renegotiate.”
Popplo said that he and his partners are aware that not everything lasts. The Flagship Diner is running strong today—but, last year, the local media ran with a story that the landowner had sold the property to a developer and the diner would be forced to vacate when its lease ran out in 2019.
“It was like a knife in my heart,” Popplo said, and added that he still gets phones calls asking if the diner is open for business.
He added that the diner has more than 35 people working who have been with the restaurant for many years.
“All these people who work here will be out of a job in two years, we’re trying to save them for now,” he said.
Reach Jon Cronin at 718-357-7400 x125, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @JonathanSCronin.