Benash, the Last of the Big Three Midtown West Jewish Delis, Bites the Dust
For many years, there was a battle among the three big Midtown West Jewish delicatessens located in close proximity to each other on Seventh Avenue—Carnegie Deli, Stage Deli and Benash Delicatessen. But one by one the delis have fallen, starting with Stage Deli closing at the end of 2012 following a 75-year run, Carnegie following suit four years later after 79 years, and as of less than two weeks ago, Benash, having operated for 28 years, shuttering.
On April 20, the marshals took legal possession of the over 3,000-square-foot ground-floor space (plus basement) that Benash occupied at 857 Seventh Avenue at West 55th Street, according to signage on the storefront, and the front door was padlocked. Benash owes the landlord, WAM Partners, about $850,000 in back rent and real estate taxes, according to Matthew Goldberg, the director of leasing for WAM Partners.
In a years long process, WAM sought to evict the tenant, and Benash contested it, Goldberg said. After Benash’s lease expired over five years ago, the landlord tried to make good with the tenant, Goldberg said.
“The lease ended a while ago but we granted extensions based on an agreement with tenants to work out arrears and other issues,” Goldberg said. “That never happened. In fact things got worse.” (For example, Benash did physical damage to the property, Goldberg noted, declining to cite specifics.)
When Benash—a 24-7 operation targeting tourists—signed a lease in 1990, its initial rent was set at $50,000 a month plus real estate taxes and water, etc., Goldberg said.
One retail broker said the news of Benash closing didn’t surprise him.
“I think the combination of high rents, increasing hourly wages and more sophisticated customers make it harder to operate in New York City,” said James Famularo of Eastern Consolidated. “Most restaurants can only pay 8 to 10 percent of the annual gross in rent; anything more seems to put them out of business.”
Lee & Associates NYC’s Peter Braus emailed: “The business and retail environment in New York is getting harder and harder in which to operate a business.” He added that in addition to “competition… people’s dining habits have changed and that type of food is a tougher sell.” That type of food refers to the overstuffed sandwiches with undulating meats, gefilte fish and matzah ball soup.
Other retail tenants in the 10,000 square feet at the base of the residential building include Radiance Tea House & Books, a dry cleaners, a liquor store and a shoe store.
Now that WAM has the Benash space back, Goldberg said the team is figuring out next moves. Restaurateurs are already knocking, but Goldberg said it was “premature for talks about the space.”
Benash’s webpage and phone number are inactive. A spokeswoman for the New York City Department of Investigation, the law enforcement agency of the government of New York City, referred an inquiry to Michael Woloz, a spokesman for the Marshals Association of New York City. Woloz didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Attorney Burton Ross, a partner at Jaffe Ross & Light, represented Benash in the eviction proceedings and he declined to comment.