Neils Coffee Shop on the Upper East Side closed after over 80 years of business following the owner’s death, who owed nearly a million dollars in unpaid rent.
On March 7, local residents saw a Marshalls notice taped to the window of Neils, informing passersby that the unit was taken under legal possession. Accompanied by the notice was a “SPACE FOR RENT” sign.
The unexpected news about the iconic long-time diner came as a shock. But court documents obtained by UpperEastSite painted a bigger picture, and it turns out the seizure of the property was years in the making, due to accumulating debt.
Cristo Kaloudis, the owner of Neils, owed $903,117 in unpaid rent by late 2021, reported Patch. Kaloudis unfortunately passed away on January 3, 2023, and the final amount of debt “topped around $1 million dollars.”
Initially opened in 1940, the coffee shop proudly stood on the corner of Lexington Avenue and East 70th Street. An old-school diner serving up burgers, fries and multi-cultural comfort cuisines, it’s laid back atmosphere and worn vinyl booths were a refreshing contrast to the upscale eateries on the luxurious Upper East Side.
During its 82-year history, the diner served as a filming location for popular shows such as Gossip Girl and American Horror Story. In a 2017 piece for the Grub Street segment of New York Magazine, fittingly titled “Watching and Lamenting the Death of the New York Diner,” Kaloudis expressed hopes of avoiding closure by passing down the business to his son in a few years. Kaloudis, 79 at the time, also conveyed his dedication to keeping prices affordable for his customers.
“We have low prices here,” said Kaloudis. “I never raise them!”
Neils was a rare gem on the Upper East Side, and whose unique presence and iconic neon red sign will be missed amongst the rows of utopian grand establishments that occupy Lexington Avenue.