[Photo yesterday by Stacie Joy]
As expected, Odessa Restaurant, 119 Avenue A between Seventh Street and St. Mark's Place, closed after service late Sunday night.
Three "Sorry We're Closed" signs arrived outside on Monday afternoon.
[Photo by Steven]
After hearing rumors on Facebook (one post was shared more than 1,100 times) the weekend of July 10 that Odessa was going to close, EVG correspondent Stacie Joy received in-person confirmation on July 12 from longtime manager Dennis Vassilatos, who shared that the diner was shutting down on July 19 after a prolonged slump in business due to COVID-19. He also said at the time that there wasn't any truth that the space was closing for renovations.
The news brought out some remembrances of a diner that has had a presence on the block since the mid-1960s.
By this past Friday afternoon, however, the story had changed. As Gothamist reported, co-owner Steve Helios stated that Odessa was only shutting down temporarily. "We'll be back," he said in the post, eyeing a return some time in 2021. The super for the building, owned by Odessa partner Mike Skulikidis, also confirmed the renovation to Gothamist.
This news took the staff by surprise. None of the employees on Friday evening were aware of these plans. In a conversation with Stacie, Vassilatos maintained that Odessa was closing, that he hadn't heard from ownership yet about any other arrangements.
Stacie asked if it was possible that she'd see him in the same spot this time next year and he said, "anything's possible in life, but don't count on it."
Since Sunday, we've heard from several longtime Odessa regulars about what is happening moving forward. Many of them are surprised and confused — and hopeful. On Sunday, one longtime customer who stopped by for a last meal to go was told by staff that Odessa might be back in five or six months, or else the owners might just rent out the prime space to another restaurant.
There are several theories that regulars are floating, including:
- The owners had been planning on a renovation and never told staff.
- The owners changed their minds after the uptick in business on what was to be their last week, opting to close for renovations to ride out the pandemic and reopen in 2021.
- The Odessa has closed for good, and the renovations narrative was simply to ease the pain of the closure.
So for now, Odessa is closed. There aren't any signs on the door stating a renovation. We didn't spot anyone inside the space either Monday or yesterday. And given that Odessa lacks a social media presence, there isn't any unified message about the future to customers.
[Photo by Stacie Joy]
Odessa Restaurant opened in this space in April 1995. The original Odessa closed next door in August 2013
Previously on EV Grieve:
• A Visit to Odessa Restaurant
• Last call for the Odessa Cafe and Bar tonight