|Mama's 39th Street Diner had a heyday. It's over.|
UPDATE (Thursday, December 30): Fat City finally received a reply, via e-mail, from local developer Del Hedgepath, owner of the building where Mama's 39th Street Diner is located, verifying that the restaurant -- which was rumored to be closed permanently -- is in the process of renovation for a spring reopening. Hedgepath writes:
"If Mama's is not reopening, that would be news to me. There have been some insurance issues that have delayed the rebuilding, but as far as I know, the build-out started..."
Fat City received a phone call on December 28 from Ira Auerbach, the co-owner of Mama's 39th Street Diner. The rumors of Mama's closing are false, he insists. He says the restaurant will tentatively reopen in "a couple of months."
"Yeah, we've heard all the rumors," Auerbach says, "and the truth is that our landlord is taking his sweet time with the build-out. We still have our lease, and we're going to reopen. It's just going to take some work."
Auerbach laughed at local blog comments that announce that either he or co-owner Jan Imber is dying or already dead. "We're both still here. We've had some health challenges, but we're going to be around to open up our restaurant."
Asked what fans of the restaurant can do until the reopening? "Just tell them to keep their fingers crossed."
Tony's Kansas City was the first out of the gate with the rumor that the restaurant would not reopen and that Hedgepath had signed a new tenant, a fast-food chain.
Other rumors about the restaurant, located in the building that once housed the iconic Nichol's Lunch, included the "news" that Imber and Auerbach were dead -- they're obviously not -- and that the restaurant was either heavily insured or under-insured.
Another rumor? That Michael Burnes, the owner of the popular Missie B's bar around the corner, wanted to expand Missie B's into the former Mama's space. Hedgepath was unavailable for comment, but when Michael Burnes was asked about possibly expanding Missie B's, he laughed. "No, darling, I'm not. I don't have the energy for a project like that."
And it would be a project. "Jan and Ira's family already took all the equipment out of the place," Burnes says. "That's how I know it won't reopen. The space will need to be completely rewired. But it's sad, since Jan and Ira had worked so hard to build a clientele there. Whatever comes into the space, whether it's a Checkers or a Steak & Shake, will do very well. It's a terrific location."
Jan Imber and Ira Auerbach moved into the former Nichol's Lunch space in late 2007; prior to that, they operated a much smaller venue at 39th and Bell.