Fans of Sammy’s Roumanian Steakhouse can guardedly look forward to hoisting seltzer and schmaltz again, as owner David Zimmerman says he intends to reopen the restaurant “in the future,” though he acknowledged he will likely have to relocate the establishment from its iconic-yet-grim basement dwelling on Chrystie Street on the Lower East Side to a new location.
“Without question it has been the toughest year for all of us and everyone in our industry,” Zimmerman said in a text message Sunday. “We can’t wait and hope to see everyone enjoying latkes, vodka, chopped liver and steaks once again. We need this horrible time to pass and bring Sammy’s back so we can celebrate again.”
There's no set date for reopening: "We got to be somewhat back to normal," Zimmerman said.
A decision on where to move the restaurant will be made “at a later date,” he said. The restaurant's Instagram account also posted a message Sunday afternoon saying, "It is with great sadness that we announce that the rumors are true and we have had to shut the doors to the infamous basement... We may be closed now, but when all this is over and we feel safe enough to hold hands during the hora, we will be back stronger, louder, and tastier than ever before."
Rumors spread on social media over the past week that the legendary kosher steakhouse was shuttered for good. While Sammy’s has remained closed during the pandemic, it was the reported removal of the interior decor, including the thousands of photos of celebrities and happy patrons who dined there, that sparked panic.
“The basement level (storefront) was empty, all the photos lining the entrance including famous customers and scenes from the many birthday, anniversary, bar mitvah, and other celebrations had been removed,” according to an Instagram post from photographers James and Karla Murray when they walked by the restaurant on Friday.
The restaurant’s Chrystie Street spot could be problematic in a post-pandemic world, with its lack of adequate ventilation and claustrophobic quarters. Sammy’s opened 45 years ago -- legend has it that Zimmerman’s father Stanley won the business in a poker game from the eponymous Sammy -- but the space had long been a restaurant.
“We're very nostalgic about this place,” said Dani Luv, the musician and singer who has performed profane versions of standards nightly for years in a back corner at Sammy’s -- if you’ve ever done a Stoli-fueled Horah dance to Hava Nagila in the restaurant, it was him singing the tune. Luv added, “It's the original but I understand why he wants to move because the conditions were very screwed up for him (there).”
“It is truly a sad time but our first priority is to be safe and healthy,” Zimmerman said in the text message. “We will see everyone in the future once this virus is over.”