Sad news for lovers of large pastrami sandwiches, which I assume is all of you reading this: Loeser's Kosher Deli, a 60-year-old Bronx institution, may soon have to close over untenably expensive but necessary repairs.
According to the NY Daily News, Loeser's became "collateral damage" on November 14th, when inspectors with the Department of Buildings followed up on a 311 call about gas problems at a neighboring deli, Bunny's Cold Cut City. While Bunny's reportedly racked up four violations, the report also called attention to the gas lines at Loeser's, which occupies the same building (212 West 231st Street). There, DOB spokesperson Abigail Kunitz told Gothamist, they found "illegal, unpermitted and potentially dangerous gas work ... which poses a fire hazard to the building occupants and their neighbors."
The Riverdale Times reports that Loeser's had been using a "decades-old setup," although the DOB indicated that the infrastructure wouldn't have been up to snuff under previous building codes, either. In any case, once the city had Con Ed cut the gas, the Loeser sisters — Pamela Loeser Halpern and Linda Loeser Weiss, who manage the deli in their father's stead — had to boil water in coffee urns to wash the dishes and serve a limited menu. According to the Daily News, that stop-gap solution didn't sit well with the Health Department, which requires eateries to have working gas lines, and which shuttered the restaurant six days later, on November 20th.
Apparently, the renovations would cost about $100,000 and obligate the Loeser family to cease operations for three months. Kunitz said the DOB is "in contact with the businesses owners, and ... providing them with guidance on the permitting and repair process to legalize the gas plumbing system and restore gas service." But having already weathered closures over Thanksgiving—for which the family had reportedly ordered extra inventory, including turkeys—and with the prospect of a knish-less holiday season looming, the outlook does not look good for Loeser's.
"We had Thanksgiving dinner and everyone just sat and cried,” Loeser Weiss told the Daily News. “We’re just hoping for a holiday miracle."
Widely lauded for its pastrami, which the Daily News once deemed the city's best, Loeser's has stood in the same spot since 1960, when Fredy Loeser opened it with his bar mitzvah money at the age of 17. It has become such a fixture that, in September, the corner where it lives—West 231st Street and Godwin Place—was recently renamed Loeser's Deli Place. Although some locals have reportedly suggested crowdfunding to bridge the financial gap, Fredy doesn't want to go that route. And so Loeser's future remains precarious.
"I’m certainly worried about losing a business that’s been here for so long,” City Council Member Andrew Cohen, whose district includes Kingsbridge, told the Riverdale Times. “But also, at the end of the day, as loyal as I am to Loeser’s, it’s important that we have safe gas in the community. I don’t want to put anybody’s safety at risk."