The owner, Jack Lebewohl, is embroiled in a rental dispute with the owner of the building that houses the 51-year-old restaurant. According to the New York Times, Lebewohl is facing a $9,000 hike on his $24,000 monthly rent, a nearly 40 percent increase that the landlords claim is written into a lease Lebewohl signed 15 years ago.
Lebewohl told the Times the closing was temporary, but mentioned that if the disagreement isn't resolved in a matter of days, it might become permanent. (The building owner agreed to bring the rent down by $3,000, the Times reported.) Lebewohl added that he has already received offers to set up shop in other nearby locations for lesser rents.
The Second Avenue Deli is one of the last remnants of what was once a vibrant theatrical mecca. Beginning in the late 1900s, Second Avenue from Houston Street to 14th Street was the heart of the Yiddish Theatre in America. Theatres and theatre-oriented cafes and eateries lined the avenue, including the famed Cafe Royal, which became the subject of the play Cafe Crown.
By the time the Second Avenue Deli opened in 1954, that world was on the wane, with many of the theatres dark. However, in a nod to the legacy of the street, deli founder Abe Lebewohl created the Yiddish Walk of Fame, a row of stars modeled after the Hollywood Walk of Fame, showcasing the stars of the Yiddish theatre. In addition, one room in the deli is named after Molly Picon, perhaps the best remembered of the Yiddish comediennes.
The deli is no longer a major theatrical hangout, but is still frequented by such stars as comedian Jackie Mason and Broadway and Off-Broadway actor Mike Burstyn, whose parents were both Yiddish headliners.