- Co-owner sees reopening near Seagram tower after year hiatus
- Auction planned of Philip Johnson-designed tables and chairs
Manhattan’s Four Seasons restaurant, the Midtown dining spot for power brokers, celebrities and well-to-do tourists, plans to close on July 16 following a week of festivities at its Seagram Building home, where it has operated for more than half a century.
The restaurant will probably be without a home for about a year, then move into a new space “about five minutes’ walking distance” from its current spot at 99 E. 52nd St., on the south side of the Seagram tower, co-owner Alex von Bidder said. The skyscraper’s owner, RFR Holding LLC, co-founded by investor Aby Rosen, decided not to renew the Four Seasons’ lease and has started making plans to install a new eatery in the space, designed by famed architect Philip Johnson.
“What we’re hoping is that absence makes the heart grow fonder,” von Bidder said in an interview. “If you don’t have us, maybe you’ll miss us and you’ll come see us.”
The closing will settle a longstanding conflict between the restaurateurs and Rosen, who has regarded the Four Seasons as tired and part of the past. The landmarked space, with its Pool Room and Grill Room, has been home to the Four Seasons since 1959. It was called “the most expensive restaurant ever built” in a review in Evergreen magazine when it opened, soon after the Seagram Building’s completion.
Von Bidder said he plans an auction of some of the restaurant’s furniture, including Johnson-designed chairs and tables. Also on the block will be “service items” such as coffee pots and Dover sole pans, some of which were designed by Ada Louise Huxtable, the late Wall Street Journal architecture critic, and her husband, industrial designer Garth Huxtable.
For its final week in the Seagram Building, the restaurant will host charity dinners and a reception for house-account customers. The last meals for the public will be served on July 15 and 16, and there will be a staff party the next day, von Bidder said.
Von Bidder said he and co-owner Julian Niccolini are in talks with potential new landlords and they’re optimistic about finding an appropriate new space for the restaurant. The partners have hired CBRE Group Inc. brokers Michael Laginestra and Michael Geoghegan to aid in the search, he said.
Laginestra said the owners are talking with a single landlord and “focusing on a spectacular location that will make all their old patrons happy and create an opportunity for new patrons.” Because the restaurant has been so closely associated with a paragon of architecture, great design will be an important part of their choice, he said.
About a year ago, the partners were in talks about relocating to 280 Park Ave., a nearby skyscraper, an executive of building co-owner SL Green Realty Corp. said on a conference call at the time. Newspapers including the New York Times reported that a move to lower Manhattan was being considered. Von Bidder declined to discuss those or any other possibilities.
Rosen, through a spokeswoman, Roxanne Donovan, declined to address the restaurant’s departure from the Seagram Building or his plans for the space afterward. Because the space is a city landmark, its essential elements will remain for the next occupants.
In July, the Times reported that chefs Mario Carbone and Rich Torrisi and a business partner, Jeff Zalaznick, were signed to take over the space once the Four Seasons is gone.