Tracks Raw Bar & Grill, a longtime destination for Long Island commuters, will close Aug. 31 to make way for a new entrance to Penn Station.
The popular bar is one of several culinary victims of a $600-million project to widen and brighten the 33rd Street and Seventh Avenue entrance to the transit hub. Penn Wine & Spirits, which is owned by Tracks co-owner Bruce Caulfield, will also close. Other impending closures include Auntie Anne's Pretzels, Au Bon Pain, Dunkin', McDonald's and Jamba Juice.
Tracks, as it is known to its loyal regulars, opened in 2003 next to the ticket counter at the eastern end of the Long Island Rail Road Concourse. It became a place of respite in the bustling station, drawing customers primarily from Long Island who came back again and again for the bar’s famed seafood towers and fine brews.
“From the day we opened, I constantly hear the same thing: ‘Thank god you built this place,’” Caulfield said. “This place is different. This place is an oasis. People from all walks of life – white collar, blue collar – come here. It’s just a real melting pot.”
A self-described “train geek,” Caulfield outfitted Tracks with a railroad theme, featuring old prints and murals related to the history of the LIRR. He estimated that 80 percent of his customers are Long Islanders.
“They plan their commute around stopping here,” he said. “They let the rush go, decompress and then get on the Long Island Rail Road.”
The restaurant’s seafood-heavy menu, including a raw oyster bar with eight varieties of oysters, is another nod to Long Island, he said. But it is the burgers that have proved the most popular over the years.
Caulfield said he is in talks with a landlord about moving Tracks to a temporary space while Penn Station undergoes construction until December 2020. He is also hoping for an intervention from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who halted a full shutdown of the L subway line for repairs last year.
“I’m just hoping they say, ‘Why are we closing this guy?’” Caulfield said. “It is an empty feeling right now.”
He’s also placing some faith of a rescue in his customers: “Come in and support us in our final days,” he said. “Help save us.”