"The restaurant had just gotten to the point where it was profitable," Frantze says, "and we just couldn't work the lease agreement out. If I had started paying what they wanted in rent, I'd find myself back where I was seven years ago, struggling to stay in business."
Frantze actually owns the building at 910 West 48th Street, where his popular J.J.'s has been open for 23 years, so he's not crazy about paying rent anyway. When American Century Real Estate proposed raising the rent on Frondizi's location, Frantze balked. The two parties kept negotiations going for months, but finally Frantze announced on April 19 that he would close Frondizi's on May 31. Most Frondizi's regulars have scheduled reservations for that night. Otherwise, he says, no special festivities are planned.
Except that from now until the end of May, Frantze is offering all wines priced under $100 at half price. He's also donating $1 of every bottle of wine sold to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
Although fans of Frondizi's are encouraging Frantze to find a new location, he's not ready to take that step. Instead, he has asked longtime Frondizi's chef Linda Duerr — formerly of Lidia's — to step into the kitchen at J.J.'s and work with that restaurant's chef, Oscar Alvarado. "Right now, Linda's taking a break and visiting her family. Then she'll come back and join us at J.J.'s."
Frantze is in the process of giving J.J.'s a long-overdue interior makeover, including a new bar. He's also discussing the possibility of building a deck on top of the building. "That all depends on the West Edge building across the street," he says, referring to the giant foundation dug for the Moshe Safdie building that will house Bernstein-Rein Advertising.
That new building may cast a long shadow over Frantze's deck, but it should supply a lot of young, thirsty tenants eager to drink there.