First the backyard went, then the by the health department, and finally, as if struck by a hellish lightning bolt straight from the hand of Ayn Rand, the Yaffa Mural was transformed overnight into a Google ad.
The corporate takeover of the wall looked a lot like a case of the death throes to us, but Yaffa tweeted otherwise. But now it’s official: the 24-hour East Village institution has closed for good.
Yaffa operators took to Twitter Wednesday afternoon to announce they were done-zo.
Bad news bears: Yaffa is officially gone. But good news: all recipes have moved to @SimoneMartiniNY on the corner!
— Yaffa Cafe (@YaffaCafe) October 1, 2014
Looking for answers, we stopped by the cafe this evening only to find a lone construction worker dismantling the deck out back. There were chairs piled high inside, booths askew, and glasses and other objects strewn everywhere. “They’re not coming back,” the construction worker told us.
Around the corner at Simone Martini Bar, the owners’ other spot, we found Brady Loomer, who until recently was the manager at Yaffa Cafe and also responsible for the restaurant’s Twitter.
“It closed for a multitude of reasons,” he explained. First off was the backyard issue. The city had determined it wasn’t up to fire code. Loomer said there was recently a fire in one of the buildings across the street from Yaffa. “It wasn’t up to code, and I have friends that lived on the third floor — their alarm didn’t go off.” This incident drove home the seriousness of the fire hazard in the backyard. Loomer also pointed to the numerous violations the health department doled out to Yaffa.
Together, the violations created a long list of repairs and updates the owners would have to take care of. “The numbers are astronomical,” he said. “We could have opened up again but it would have cost us so much money that we wouldn’t have been able to do it.”
Loomer said the owners were deeply reluctant to reopen without the backyard, and making it fire safe would have required the construction of a fireproof tunnel extending all the way from the outdoor seating area in the back to the street out front.
“The backyard was our top seller,” he said. “It was like Narnia back there.”
As for the Twitter announcement regarding the menu, Loomer said that not everything could be brought over to Simone from Yaffa. “But we tried to bring over as much as we could,” he said. The Middle Eastern Platter and Berber Chicken are a couple of the dishes that made it. The carrot dressing also survived the fall of Yaffa.
But that’s little consolation to Yaffa’s devotees, who expressed their sorrow on Twitter.
Another nail in the coffin of the East Village I used to know. RIP Yaffa Cafe, punky & psychedelic late-night diner. http://t.co/ajFcnrCGax.
— Geeta Dayal (@geetadayal) October 2, 2014
RIP Yaffa Cafe. I will miss your sunny backyard and cheap glasses of wine and glittery plastic couches and plastic jesus statues. 🙁
— Lenora Jayne (@lenorajayne) October 2, 2014
My first night at Yaffa Cafe I fell in love with a server. Later it became my go-to spot to eat and pass out in a booth at 4AM. RIP m’dear.
— Noah (@noahadler) October 2, 2014
— Jonathan Graynor (@JGraynor) October 2, 2014
If it weren’t for those cute alterna-waiters at Yaffa when I moved here in ’94, I would have starved to death… 🙁 http://t.co/5BOxlzBgEw
— Darenzia Elizabeth (@Darenzia) October 2, 2014
Loomer said that he, too, was heartbroken — “and it’s been really hard on the owners. But when people get upset about Yaffa closing, I tell them to go to Simone. I understand, though — it’s not the same feel. People liked the exclusion of Yaffa late at night. You know, being able to drink a Chai tea in the backyard.”
He added–“But we have Chai tea here too.”