More On the Sudden Closing of Mama’s Food Shop

mama'sMelvin Felix

The Local spoke to Jeremiah Clancy today as he took down the photos of patrons’ mothers that decorate Mama’s Food Shop. He said his own mother happened to be in town, which made the closing of the restaurant bitter-sweet.

“It’s all in the lawyers’ hands at this point,” said Mr. Clancy. “I’m cleaning out the space today and tomorrow, the keys will be handed to my lawyer, he’ll send them to [the landlord’s] lawyer and he’ll take possession.”

Elaborating on a statement that he sent to the The Local earlier today, Mr. Clancy pointed to some specific reasons that he decided to call it quits well before the expiration of his lease in October of 2013. During the time that he owned the restaurant, he said, “my property tax went up something ridiculous – like 380 percent.”

In 2007, shortly after he took over the business, he was hit with a back rent and property tax bill of approximately $30,000, he said: “We had to get legal teams involved and come to a good place, and basically ever since then the landlord has been kind of squeezing me with water bills, gas bills, electric bills.”

Mr. Clancy said he had had to pour money into upkeep of his space, patching up the floor and fixing plumbing issues. “The building is falling apart and I can’t keep up with all the maintenance,” he said. “Everything’s breaking all the time.”

“It’s at the point now where we’re in our third negotiation for property taxes which get folded into rent,” he said, “and those are combined with the money I put into the space, which is not my own – it’s not my property.”

At the same time, said Mr. Clancy, the restaurant’s formerly robust lunch and weekday business dwindled due to the neighborhood’s increasingly professional demographic. “Anyone who can afford to live here or anyone who’s holding on to the last vestiges of what the East Village used to be like, say, when I was in college – they’re working stiffs,” he said, adding that residential tenants increasingly have to work till 9 p.m. to be able to afford their rents.

Meanwhile, he said, fickle foodies have mostly moved on from the restaurant, in part because New York magazine, for one, has showed favoritism to another comfort-food joint in the neighborhood Mr. Clancy said was “basically the same exact thing as Mama’s – fried chicken and a side – but it’s served to you by some hipster dude who has long hair and is 27 and has Steely Dan on the radio.”

“I’m very confused with the food movement because I think in many regards its such a wonderful thing,” he said, “but in other regards it’s like, who’s the most popular kid in the cafeteria? And it’s a racket now.”

On The Local’s Facebook page, reaction was swift. “I’ve noticed the slump in the East Village area and the shuttering of lots of businesses,” wrote George Tsiolis. “This has become a big problem and rather depressing as an East Village/Alphabet City resident…”

“I’m sorry to hear this,” wrote Trisha Cluck. “I ate here more times that I can count and I lived just near it.”

Mama’s Bar, which is separately owned, will remain open.

We’ve left a message asking Mr. Clancy’s landlord for comment, and will update this post if and when we hear back.