Saturday, September 20, 2014

More about Angelica Kitchen's uncertain future



As we noted this past week, Angelica Kitchen is facing an uncertain future. The 38-year-old vegetarian favorite launched a public awareness campaign to help keep its doors open on East 12th Street.

Gothamist spoke with owner Leslie McEachern about the situation. She signed a new 5-year-lease in March for $21,000-plus a month. (When she opened in 1985 on St. Mark's Place, her rent was $450 a month.)

Per Gothamist:

"The rent was already way too high per square foot compared to what others in the neighborhood are paying," McEachern says. "We need to make $7,000 a night just to make overhead; utilities, rent, taxes, insurance, the whole shebang." Last winter, with its multiple Polar Vortexes, was particularly difficult for Angelica, and McEachern says there were "many" days over the winter where the restaurant "barely brought in $2,000. We were barely able to stay open."

Before that, Angelica was hard-hit by Hurricane Sandy. "We lost a lot of money during that week because our insurance refused to pay business interruption insurance, which it did with other businesses in the East Village. Things just dropped off after Hurricane Sandy. The whole neighborhood economy just slammed shut, for quite a while."

Read the rest of the post here.

Angelica Kitchen is located at 300 E. 12th St. near Second Avenue.

Previously on EV Grieve:
Angelica Kitchen is latest East Village restaurant in danger of closing (35 comments)

38 comments:

Anonymous said...

This used to be a fairly vegetarian friendly neighborhood. Not so anymore. Anyhow, I'm surprised Angelica's lasted as long as it did, but I guess it had a solid base which catered to folks coming into the nabe from elsewhere, suburbs especially, who wanted a little of the old charm (when they lived here or passed through while students) as I knew only a few who ate there on a regular basis. It wasn't my favorite as I thought it was overpriced and pretentious. But at this point, keeping some of the old standbys seems important. And I did my duty: Just went by B&H and it seems to be doing well. And they do not take credit cards too. So I'm keeping my fingers crossed for this one, which doesn't seem to be on the endangered list.

Gojira said...

Why didn't their insurance company pay, if it paid for others?

m2ndSt said...

maybe people aren't into this dogmatic paternalism any more. I mean not taking credit cards because some people don't handle their debt properly? I don't eat out to be judged.

Trixie said...

They probably don't take credit cards because of the fees they are charged. Businesses pay fees for the privilege of accepting them, just like users pay late fees if they don't pay off the full amount every month. The CC companies get it coming and going.

Anonymous said...

Cash only? There's the problem.

Anonymous said...

They should not have signed the lease if they could not afford it. Sandy was two years ago this October. Most businesses (I have one) bounced back in April once winter was finally over and I experienced a great spring from pent up desire to spend some money. The credit argument is silly. Raise your prices to cover the credit card processing fees. What are we suppose to do here, eat every meal at Angelica's going forward? They should try to re-negoiate their lease and if that fails close.

m2ndSt said...

@ Trixie actually if you read the gothamist article they make it very clear it is because people can't be trusted with credit cards. but I bet the business has a credit card. paternalist b.s.

Anonymous said...

I visited Angelica's once shortly after I moved to the neighborhood in the late 1980's. I had grown up with many wonderful and rich vegetarian dishes at home and was excited about trying this place. I have never been back since that day in 1989. The food at Angelica's is extremely plain, unimaginative, and lacks flavor. It is boring.The rich and wonderful vegetarian casseroles my mother made, the curries, the moist veggie loafs in rich sauces, the veggie paellas, and the bean purees were all absent. It was all steamed vegetables, buckwheat, and stir fry tofu.

I have always assumed there were people who liked that sort of thing, and I certainly wish her the best of luck. But the menu in this place has never been for me. Back in the old days this sort of food was called strict macrobiotic and it was for people with medical issues. It is not what I knew as vegetarian... Also, if she has issues with credit cards, how can she install an ATM? Those 'portable" ATM things are far more of a rip off and dangerous than credit cards...

Anonymous said...

Eat now, pay later? I don't understand the concept of going to restaurants to pay with a credit card. If you can't afford to go out to eat, then don't.

Anonymous said...

And $450 today is around $1000.

"Beware! Keep yourselves from covetousness, for a man's life doesn't consist of the abundance of the things which he possesses."

And remember how the spider got a waist. Hope the landlord choke on his/her own greed.

Joey Blau said...

uh.. you can have your credit card paid with an automatic debit to your checking account.

no cash to carry around..

elyse said...

I eat there all the time. This is insane. If she ends up not being able to pay the rent I just hope she looks for either a less expensive or smaller space. I don't understand how these landlords live with themselves. sigh.

Anonymous said...

If you are running a business, you need to make it easy to take peoples money. Period.

In 2014, we are all used to paying with a credit or debit card. Not because we "can't afford" to eat out, it's just easier than either carrying around a lot of cash or making frequent trips to the ATM. And before you start scolding me about the expectations of how we live in 2014, unless you get your milk delivered to your doorstep each morning or talk exclusively on a phone plugged into the wall or never use the Internet to get news - ahem - you're right there with us. So don't single those of us who prefer to pay with plastic as some type of atrocious human being. I can afford to eat out and I pay my bill, in full, at the end of each month.

When the guy selling rocks on a table in Union Square is using Square to take CC payments on an iPad, and your RESTAURANT doesn't, that's a choice YOU make. Just as I choose to eat at a place where I don't have to be limited to what I can eat or drink based on how much cash I happen to have on me.

And ENOUGH of using this blog as a forum to beg. Perhaps you and ST. Mark's books and the others can open up a self-pity mini mall on Avenue D.

Anonymous said...

There are plenty of restaurants and businesses that are cash basis only, esp. outside of NYC. It's mostly in the NYC, esp. the EV, that credit cards are used because it's mommy and daddy that gets and pays for the bill. How many lives have been ruined by the credit card companies?, that a missed or a mistake in payment of purchasing a $30 meal can haunt one in the future by having that credit report stuck in you and one is unable to get a mortgage or whatnot.

"we are all used to paying by credit card or debit card...", We? All? speak for yourself.

"you need to make it easy to take peoples money.", hence the age of aggressive consumerism.

And next would be the iWallet, an easier way to take people's money. Enjoy shopping and consuming.

Anonymous said...

What still knocks me out is when I see people bust out with a credit card to buy a banana or a quart of milk. The processing machines are faster now so it is not as infuriating as it used to be when you were behind these mooks on line, and knew you now had to settle in and wait for the credit card approval and payment procedure. But even so, you don't have 60cents for that banana? Their statements must be 30 pages long each month.

Anonymous said...

@11:34 Mock me all you want and continue to marginalize me as some type of idiot consumer who lacks self control, but I'll continue to eat at Orlin, Mogador, Veselka and any place else where I can pay with my CC should I choose. YOURE the reason we have 7-11s, not me.

Anonymous said...

1147 It sounds like you're the mindless consumer. Based on the amount of specific information in your comment, you've been burned by the credit card companies. Please don't project your past mistakes onto others who may be more responsible with their finances. If you are trying to sway us to pay cash and patronize this business you're faling miserably by creating so much negative sentiment here in the comments.

Anonymous said...

I do think it is a little hypocritical to be in debt like the owner of this restaurant is then argue that you don't accept credit cards because you don't like the culture of debt. Not everyone who uses a credit card to pay for a meal is in debt. It's a convenience for people like me who don't like to walk around with a lot of cash.

Anonymous said...

There isn't a single person reading this thread that isn't a consumer. Everyone buys something. Don't judge people if they prefer the convenience of paying with a credit card and I won't judge you for using a phone and not writing a letter every time you want to communicate with someone.

Anonymous said...

If you're operating a business today and still haven't embraced technology from the late 1800s you're going to have a really tough time competing with other businesses who do. I hope your ideology serves you well when you have to lay off your hard working employees.

Anonymous said...

Two things:
- As a vegan:
We don't go to Angelica much because the food is bland.
- As a biz owner:
Omg - please, please find out who owns your credit card company before you talk about "convenience"! You are a frog in a pot of water - probably not wanting to enrich the 1% while blindly shoveling forkfuls of cash at them.

Mmmmm, the water's getting warmer now :)

Go ahead and use credit cards like you would have used a check a decade ago... When you want a paper trail or online - they're great for that. But stop bleeding small businesses (it's around 4% - straight out of their profit). Stop tipping waitstaff and cabbies on your card. Pleeeeeease.

Anonymous said...

I'm getting really sick of this notion that anyone who uses a credit card is having the bill paid by their parents. These blanket statements are not productive nor do they make me feel like Angelica is a place I now want to eat. Keep shooting yourself in the foot.

weigone said...

So much negativity! Why are so many commenters harping on her "ideology" and decision not to accept credit cards? She is trying to keep her livelihood and all you can do is to put her down? Does anyone else think that $21,000/month for rent is outrageous? You can give constructive criticism but I don't understand why there is so much personal vitriol. And no this blog is not a giant pity party. Angelica Kitchen's situation, if nothing else, is a comment on and an example of the current trend in neighborhood economics that is devastating to small businesses. Three shops on a single block of 7th St alone have shuttered their doors in the last week. Were they all somehow incompetent?

BagelGuy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Credit cards provide a service, which happens to include convenience, and they charge for it. How is that different from any other service you pay for. Is paying for the convenience of not carrying cash inherently more wrong or immoral than say tipping the delivery guy for making one's life a little easier. Just trying to stand up for common sense by the way, not for credit banks.

Anonymous said...

Bagel Guy, it's apples and oranges. Selling bagels and other relatively inexpensive items is much cheaper than eating dinner out. I prefer the option of paying with a cc at restaurants. Grabbing a bagel, I don't care.

BagelGuy said...

A) $21,000 is out of line with 2nd Avenue rents. The recently vacated laundry on 2nd between 5th and 6th (On the actual avenue) is going for 18,000 per month. Before Picnic re-opened, the lease was being shopped at $14,500 per month. That's a corner space. Many space ON 2nd Ave going for at or around 20 per month. The LL should have shopped around and negotiated a better deal. $21,000 for a side street is a bad deal.

B) When anon posters agree to donate 4 pct of all their earnings to Chase, AmEx, and Bank of America, then I will take their asinine comments on how all of us small biz owners should accept credit cards seriously. I went to every bank in town to get start up money for TSB. They all laughed me out the door. I'd sooner stick a knife in my chest than help these same banks make one red cent off my willingness to take a risk and my sweat. GFY to them all.
C) Anon's who accuse Angelica of practicing tax evasion are way out of line. Those comments should be removed. It's our choice as small biz owners , guys who take it every which way, from greedy landlords to made up NYC fees and fines, to choose NOT to accept a 4 pct bank tax. Again, anon's should donate 4 pct of their earnings to the banks and then get back to me.
D) I understand OWS was to many, a fashion statement. However, some of us actually meant it. The bank played a large part in wrecking this country's economy . You support them every time you use a credit card. But that's your choice. My choice is to not accept them. Again, taxes have nothing to do with it. Unless you're a shop owner working out of a cigar box, you're documenting your sales. Any half way decent POS system is recording sales. So anon's please, stop talking out of your butts.

Good luck to the folks at Angelica. I will be in for my 2 muffins a day and weekly bowl of soup in your support.

Anonymous said...

Something doesn't make sense here. It says Angelica's current rent is $21,000+ a month, and McEachern says she needs to take in $7,000 a DAY just to meet expenses. Thus she needs to take in $210,000 (in a 30-day month) merely to meet expenses.

The $21,000 rent is only 10% of that $210,000, which (to me) says that the rent isn't the main issue, but that the business has other problems. Is it normal to have other business expenses equal 90% of your break-even income??

As to her insurance not paying out on business interruption from the hurricane, that indicates that she didn't have that coverage - or she didn't have the coverage she thought she had.

Offering delivery would have made a HUGE difference over the many years. It was as if a moral judgment was being made: "If you're not strong enough to get here in person, we don't want you as a customer."

I've eaten from Angelica many times, and I agree with those who comment on the "rules" (and there are "rules" in place even for the take-out dept.). Ms. McEachern can run her restaurant any way she wishes, but part of the reason I haven't gone there lately is the cost, and part of it is the somewhat overbearing environment of the place. I don't need my food to come with a side-order of "we-know-better-than-you" attitude. (I've encountered the "Coffee?! Oh, no! It's bad for you, so we don't serve it" routine.)

As to McEachern's "philosophy" about credit cards, she has every right to it - but it's probably cost her more money in lost sales than she can ever quantify.

Similarly, she's willing to have a high-fee ATM in place, but not take credit cards? She's free to make those choices, but they don't add up to a coherent "philosophy."

If Angelica closes, I'll feel it's at least as much about the owner's inflexibility (or inability to respond to changes) over 29 years in business as it is about rising rent.

BagelGuy said...

5:19 - You are correct . Those numbers don't add up. Also, I'm on Avenue A and the Hurricane had little effect on my biz other than to shut me down for a few days. No flooding. The day I opened people were back in my shop. I also very much agree with your last sentence. You need to stay current and keep up. Places like Northern Spy, Edie and the Wolf, and Brindle Room , all offer vegan dishes presented in newer more interesting , and sometimes more flavorful ways.

Anonymous said...

WTF they don't deliver either??? Come on!!!

Anonymous said...

I want Angelica's to succeed because I have an affection for the place but I have to admit I only eat there a few times a year and I think I only do that out of loyalty and the aforementioned affection. I have never eaten any meal there that was something I would think about later. I feel like I had a healthy meal but the food isn't particularly tasty. I happen to be married to someone who makes delicious vegan and veggie dishes at home quite often so I am spoiled but I do think this place could update some of its recipes and I hope they do and I hope they survive.

BT said...

- An ATM doesn't cost the business owner anything, credit cards take 2% (visa, mastercard) or 4% (Amex) of revenue

- 60% or credit card users pay their bill off completely every month (i.e., they do not incur any revolving debt)


The $7,000 per day is probably gross revenue. If they serve 200 people per day and food COSTS per person is $20, that's $4000. So roughly $4000 plus rent of (a little under) $1000 per day plus staff costs of $1000 per day (all rough ballparks) is $6,000 per day. So having to reach $6,000 or $7,000 in revenue for break-even is quite feasible, unfortunately.

Anonymous said...

You make money from having an ATM on your property because the owner of the ATM pays you a fee to place it there. It's a good deal.

9:11 a.m. said...

The newbies want all these banks for their convenience and yet now that they have them in almost every block or corner, they're too lazy to go to one to withdraw money and can't line-up whether it's for the ATM a teller. Everything is about instant gratification. This goes along the same line as what Anthony Bourdain said about crabs:

"When people started demanding boneless stuff like chicken without a bone, or crab meat without actual crab, or lazy lobster. That was the beginning of the erosion of our society as we know it. If you're not willing to work for a pay-off like this, how do you expect to fight Al Qaeda. If you can't suck the meat out of a fucking crab. It's a character builder. And delicious."

Ken from Ken's Kitchen said...

Thinking that eating grains and mashed potatoes with brown rice gravy is healthy is very 1989. And coffee is good for you if you leave out the sugar.

Jill W. said...

For those who haven't eaten in Angelika for a while because they thought the food was bland, try their daily specials. That's usually what I order unless I'm in the mood for a simple healthy meal. The specials are where the flair comes in. The last meal I had there was delicious and I was thrilled to be able to order a glass of wine.

Former East Villager said...

Very early this morning, I was in a state between sleep and wakefulness, not really thinking of anything in particular. Then suddenly out of the blue, an idea came to me.

Now, I am not a restaurant consultant by any stretch. I did eat out a lot, and get takeout and delivery when I lived in the East Village, though.

I thought, could Angelica Kitchen do vegan pizza?

I am a dedicated carnivore, but still loved Viva Herbal's slices. They seemed to have disappeared into the ether. (The slices and the business.) Examining Angelica Kitchen's daily specials tells me the chef is quite creative. And they'd be filling the void since Viva's departure.

A lot of people have raised the idea of taking credit/debit cards and offering delivery. I'm not going to jump into that fray. If I like the food enough, I'll concede to the eatery's policies. The owner clearly has made concessions by now offering beer, wine, and coffee. If the owner is reading this, she can still keep her principles by offering vegan pizza.

Best of luck to Angelica Kitchen. I will stop in for a meal on my next visit.

Anonymous said...

As others have pointed out - it's not the rent that killing the restaurant - it's the high operating cost, bland food and archaic policies.

The owner is free to run the restaurant as she chooses - just like the landlord is free to chose the rent amount.

Ultimately, we all have to evolve or go extinct. That's the nature of the beast. Everything else is just noise.