Broderick, the star of “The Producers” and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and a cafe regular, said he was sad to see another New York City business with a rich history on the verge of closing forever.
“There are whole swaths of places that have closed since March, not just in Hell’s Kitchen or Times Square, but everywhere,” said Broderick. “It’s terrifying. These places are what make New York New York.”
Broadway stars including André De Shields and Nathan Lane have gathered at the restaurant to celebrate Tony Award wins and commiserate over losses, and Bruce Willis, Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller all dined there.
The cafe’s 100-seat basement theater, which opened in 1983, a few years after the restaurant, has had its own memorable moments: Warren Leight’s Tony Award-winning play “Side Man” had its debut there, Lewis Black spent more than 10 years as its playwright in residence, and it staged early Aaron Sorkin plays and occasional drag shows.
Olsen, 66, has spent his entire adult life running the restaurant, which he opened in 1978 in a Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood that was still considerably grittier, and more dangerous, than it is today. “This location was considered Siberia,” Olsen said. “42nd Street and Ninth Avenue was as far west as anyone was willing to venture.”
Members of an Irish gang, the Westies, were among the fledgling restaurant’s clientele. He resisted pressure to hire one of their men as a bartender, and to bring in their female friends as waitresses. “Everyone said it was because I was courageous,” he said, laughing. “But I just didn’t know. I was in my early 20s. I was immortal.”