My old man used to drink at The Ginger Man, a restaurant near Lincoln Center. The place was named after the play based on J.P. Donleavy’s novel. Patrick O’Neal, one of the owners, had stared in the short-lived play. The novel, was reissued not long ago, and over at The Daily Beast, Allen Barra calls it “the funniest novel in the English language since Evelyn Waugh.”
O’Neals’ restaurant, formerly The Ginger Man–my old man’s watering hole–is closing at the end of June. O’Neals’ has been a presence on west 64th street for close to fifty years. This comes as sad news for the neighbhorhood. It also hits close to home for me as Mike O’Neal is a family friend.
From his newsletter this morning:
Many of you know all the many manifestations we have had over the years, originally the Ginger Man, we got good reviews and we expanded. Soon we broke through the wall into the Liberty Warehouse and opened the Liberty Ice Cream Parlor, We later turned this room into “the Grill Room”, do you remember the beautiful fireplace? Little by little our original home, a renovated garage, became the site of a new building we moved all operations into the warehouse.
In 2001 The Liberty Warehouse was sold and the old owners went belly up. The strict foreclosure that followed terminated our lease with many years to go.l
A buyer turned up and made the building a condo. At this point we considered calling it quits but we held out and negotiated a new lease. We waited 21 months to reopen. Meanwhile the building had been gutted. We rebuild saving many of our treasures and lovingly making a home for them in the new space.
We came back seven years ago, bigger and better than ever. I think the new place is beautiful and we also build a modern new kitchen which make the food even better.
But along with all the building came “new debt”. At first we did well but when Lincoln Center cut back on their programs and the “world wide recession” up we started to loose ground. It has come to that point where we have to admit “We bit off more than we can chew”. So rather than further increasing our debt we have made the painful and heart wrenching decision to close.
Mike and his brother Patrick also used to own O’Neals’ Ballon which was directly across from Lincoln Center. The final scene in Annie Hall was shot there: