Uncle Boons Will Close Permanently

Uncle Boons during better days. Photo: Jenny Westerhoff

Every time Grub has walked past Uncle Boons over the last seven years — save for, maybe, the restaurant’s earliest days, and of course since the coronavirus pandemic — it was mobbed. Ann Redding and Matt Danzer’s Thai restaurant brought their khao soi and toasted-coconut sundaes to Nolita, and it was one of the most popular places to open downtown during the last decade. But even the most successful restaurants may only hang on by a thread during better days, and the strain of the last few months presents many impossible challenges. Sadly, Redding and Danzer have announced they’ll permanently close Uncle Boons because of the coronavirus pandemic. “We’re naturally quite sad about this, but unfortunately know that we aren’t alone in this,” Redding writes to Grub Street. “A lot of our colleagues are probably in the same boat, which is awful.”

In a statement, Redding and Danzer thank their employees — “We are so grateful for the accolades and nominations; however, they are meaningless without the people who make a restaurant work and who make guests want to come back” — before acknowledging the bleak reality the industry currently faces. They write, “We — a small, family-owned business — are no more immune to the realities that threaten restaurants, than any other shop. Despite our good standing, we were not able to reach a manageable agreement with our landlord that takes into account the complexities of running a restaurant under the limitations of COVID-19.”

During the pandemic, paying rent has become an issue for an overwhelming number of restaurants. A survey of 500 bar and restaurant operators found that 83 percent could not pay rent in July. Business owners have sought relief from landlords to varying results, and others are calling for an extension to Local Law 1932-A, which makes it so personal-liability provisions in leases can’t be enforced. That law expires in September. Speaking with Grub about the law, Roni Mazumdar — owner of Adda, the Masalawala, and Rahi — said, “It would be a fatal blow to the restaurant industry if they don’t extend it.”

While Uncle Boons is closing, its counterpart Uncle Boons Sister, a small takeout spot, will remain open. As will Thai Diner, the restaurant that Redding and Danzer opened in February, less than a month before the New York restaurant shutdown. “We are trying to keep perspective knowing that there is so much at stake in New York and in America right now,” Redding writes to Grub. “We want to soldier on however we can and make Thai Diner as strong as possible.”

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