The Loring Vanishes?
What the hell is going on at the Loring? It's the question on everyone's lips. Loring Bar and Cafe owner Jason McLean says that Joseph Whitney, owner of the building, won't commit to renewing the lease, and so McLean, his 70-some employees, chef Patrick "I'll bury my knives and look for another line of work" Atanalian, and all those ficus trees could be evicted as early as June 1 of this year.
D'Amico Partners, of D'Amico Cucina, D'Amico & Sons, and Campiello fame is the probable tenant. I tried to get quotes from D'Amico and from Joe Whitney on all of this, but Whitney wouldn't return my phone calls, and, as of my deadline for this, spokespeople at D'Amico wouldn't talk. McLean, though, he's talking. "The message we want to get out is that we want to be here and we're in great shape to do the business we've ever done," says McLean. "We've invested our heart, soul, blood, and tears--not to mention a hell of a lot of cash--into this property that isn't ours, and in the process we've achieved something here that a lot of people only pay lip service to--people from all over the world flock here and have a good time and feel comfortable with each other. And now we want to tell the public: Don't get complacent and get sad--get mad, because this is outrageous. And we'd invite any competing restaurant that thinks they could move in on our nest to take a long hard look at whether public sentiment would allow them to make a go of it." (Much more info, a petition, and suggested text for a letter for Whitney are available at www.loringcafe.com.)
It's against my better judgment to say anything at all about this, because if D'Amico moves into the Loring's space I hope to regard it with an open mind. Generally, that's why I try not to cover restaurant machinations. Machinations like the Loring's Black Monday last September, when lots of longtime employees were fired. (McLean says they were engaged with various levels of soft embezzling or turning a blind eye to such, which the fired deny. McLean says those troubles were what caused his cash shortfall, to the tune of "a couple hundred thousand dollars" a year, which made him miss two rent checks, which made Whitney go and start courting other tenants.)
And yet, of course, I think I've got a unique and invaluable perspective that should be heard, and I hope it will make some sort of intuitive sense to the people involved, so here I go violating all my better instincts, and weighing in: Why do people go to the Loring? Not as much of a no-brainer as it seems. It's not the location--no way. I don't underestimate location--I bet two ducks and a keg could set up shop in the Liquor Lyle's space (now site of the worst sign this side of the earth's core) and pack them in. But the Loring is near nothing but the Loring, the parking stinks, even valet-ing at the Loring is inconvenient. Seriously--time it.
No. The Loring works because of the crowd: Arty, sexy, boho freaks. Because if I'm going to be honest, why not just alienate everyone? The Loring is the one place in town where arty ballerina vampire girls, simmering bespectacled muscle boys, Czech cable bootleggers, and the people with jobs who want to fuck them (the ad buyers, the graphic designers, the architects) and the people who want to fuck the people who want to fuck them all converge.
Yes, the Loring's rooms are big and gorgeous and romantic--but dirty, weird, and craggy, too. Expense-account types see the place as weird, as stuff for weird kids. They are right. If the Loring changes hands and operates as a bar, I predict that that trend-driving, artsy Loring crowd will vanish. They are not Campiello/D'Amico types. Next, the people who buy $9 cocktails to be near them, either aspirationally or acquisitively, they will vanish. And that will be that. I hope it doesn't happen.
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