Subway Inn owners, patrons rally to save midtown bar from closure

Will Sutton tends bar at the Subway Inn

Will Sutton tends bar at the Subway Inn on East 60th Street on Aug. 15, 2014. Patrons and the owners are fighting eviction. (Credit: Bryan Smith)

Supporters of one of the Upper East Side's oldest bars continued their push Thursday to prevent its last call.

The owners of the Subway Inn at 143 E. 60th St. already have undertaken a print and online petition to save the 77-year-old watering hole and said they are considering taking legal action against the developers who didn't offer them a new lease. Steven Salinas, 34, the son of owner Arsenio Salinas, said his family was shocked when World-Wide Group, the developer, told them in late July they would have to vacate on Aug. 20.

He said the bar, which used to be frequented by celebrities such as Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe, shouldn't join iconic establishments such as Rizzoli Bookstore and Roseland Ballroom that have been forced to shut down because of rising costs or development.

"New York City is getting rid of all these places," he said. "These rich investors keep trying to make a quick buck."

The Salinas family said they pay $20,000 a month in rent and the landlords said they could stay past the Aug. 20 deadline if they pay $1,000 a day. Arsenio Salinas, 60, said he hasn't thought of what he and his family, who also work in the bar, will do.

"I came in here when I was 19 or 20 years old," he said. "I've passed all these years here."

A spokesman for World-Wide said it had an agreement with the family that the property was always intended to be developed and the family signed one-year leases with that knowledge.

"From the time that the World-Wide Group purchased the site in 2006 from William Ackerman and agreed to allow the Salinas family to operate the bar, it was acknowledged that a development was going to take place at the site," the spokesman said in a statement.

The Salinas family said they hope the public support they've received over the last few weeks would help change the developer's stance and give them more time in the neighborhood.

Margaret Newman, the executive director of the Municipal Arts Society, a nonprofit group that fights to preserve historic locations in the city, said that it will take more than just signatures for Subway Inn to have a turnaround. Newman said the reason so many campaigns to save long-running establishments from closure fail is simply that they come around too late. It's too far into the process for the Subway Inn to find a legal solution or negotiate a deal.

"They are private properties, so they are controlled by individual real estate people. At that point, the pressure doesn't matter," she said.

Newman added that the public outcry helps raise awareness and can help make the case for new regulations that give small business owners more power.

"People not raising awareness about this is a problem, so repeatedly putting it out there does a lot to change things for the future," she said.

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