For years it seemed the gruff, bro-like restaurateur Ken Friedman could do no wrong. His ever-expanding restaurant empire — seated at the Spotted Pig but with outposts on the Far West Side at the Rusty Knot and the John Dory and the soon-to-open restaurant at the the Ace Hotel, the Breslin — was on solid foundations. So it came as a shock that, as Eater reported on Saturday morning, the John Dory would be closing its doors on Saturday.
We stopped by on Sunday to spot-check, and, sure enough, workers were out en force packing up the bar. Ken Friedman stood imposingly at the entrance, presiding over the dismantling with a cloud over his head. We asked him whether, whence, and where the John Dory was moving, but he wouldn’t discuss it.
Like a neglected goldfish, the signs of the John Dory’s demise were well-presaged. As Friedman told us earlier this summer:
“It’s tough to take reservations in a small restaurant, because if you book a six-top and 8 p.m. and they don’t show up, you’ve been telling people for a month that you’re booked up,” he explains. “All of a sudden, because there’s no people walking in like at the Pig, you have an empty table even though you’ve been booked for months. That doesn’t really kill us financially — well, it does — but it just kind of bugs us that that happens.”
Later Friedman blamed the failure of the John Dory on the neighborhood’s lack of street traffic — to get an idea just how empty the restaurant was, Friedman told Diner’s Journal that there were “already more customers at the lobby bar of the hotel than … at the John Dory.” The John Dory, Friedman says, will relocate (place t.b.d.), but its failure raises the question of whether, perhaps, New Yorkers might be growing weary of the mondo film-set aesthetic of Friedman’s restaurant — or perhaps they’re realizing there are other fish in the sea.