We reported last week that beloved Cajun eatery and longtime Bowery hangout Great Jones Cafe was temporarily shutting down — and, according to cryptic information from an employee, would or would not return. Fearing that the Great Jones had become yet the latest victim of rising rents, New Yorkers swarmed onto social media to pay their respects and lament the loss of a neighborhood institution that has served as an indispensable cultural hub for local artists, musicians, and writers — some of whom, like Basquiat, have become quite famous.
But then something remarkable happened: “Reports of our demise were greatly exaggerated,” the restaurant has announced. It turns out that Great Jones was never at risk of closing: owner James (Jim) Moffett was hospitalized for an injury and, in his absence, “‘Great Jones Café closing temporarily’ got morphed into ‘Great Jones is closing,'” he explained to Bedford + Bowery, calling it a testament to the “power of social media and how things can wobble out of control.” The Cafe’s assistant manager has a second job, Moffett further explained, which is why they elected to temporarily shutter the Cafe while Moffett was in the hospital.
“Tonight when we open at 5 o’clock everything will be exactly the same,” said Moffett. “Prices, menu, everything, except the bathroom is spiffed up.” The bathrooms were painted while the restaurant was closed. The only fixture of the Cafe that will still be missing is its famous jukebox, which was removed earlier this year at the behest of the building’s landlord.
The Great Jones is here to stay, emphasized Moffett, and there was never any validity to the rumor it would close. Is there any risk of a fatal rent hike? Not likely, said Moffett: “We are on good terms with our landlord and he has stated a willingness to extend our lease. He doesn’t want to give it to anyone else and he isn’t talking about any significant increases. There is no indication the landlord is planning to push us out.”
He did concede that there is “a bit of a pressure to move away from our roadhouse vibe to a more upscale vibe,” in keeping with the changing neighborhood. “The landlord has been kind of pressuring us to grow up with the neighborhood, so to speak,” though so far removing the jukebox and painting the bathroom are the only changes that the landlord has requested. “I am trying to chart a middle course that keeps our customers happy and keeps him happy as well. Any ‘upgrading’ that happens will happen gradually over time.”