Gage & Tollner to reopen in original Downtown Brooklyn location
Gage & Tollner, one of the most venerable and aristocratic restaurants in Downtown Brooklyn, is now coming back after a 15-year hiatus.
According to the New York Post, St. John Frizell of Fort Defiance in Red Hook, Ben Schneider of Good Fork and his chef and wife Sohui Kim have signed a lease at 374 Fulton St. after a two-year struggle to raise the needed $400,000 from other businesses and through crowdfunding.
The group signed the lease with landlord William Jemal after “hitting the numbers” in December, the Post reported.
The restaurant was launched in 1879 and moved to its most recent address in 1892. It was known for its mirrors and plush interior; its gaslights, long after most places had replaced them with electric lights; and its seafood and Southern cuisine.
In its heyday, it attracted Broadway and Hollywood stars like Jimmy Durante, Mae West and Fannie Brice. The city’s Landmark Preservation Commission (LPC) declared its exterior a landmark in 1974 and landmarked its interior in 1975.
“Upon entering, one is immediately transported back to the period of Diamond Jim Brady,” the city LPC’s 1975 designation report about Gage & Tollner’s dining room said.
But when the Fulton Mall area started to decline during the 1970s, however, Gage & Tollner was increasingly out of place.
Its last owner, Joe Chirico, who also owns Marco Polo in Carroll Gardens, made extensive renovations but closed it in 2004 because, in his terms, “the business was dragging every day.”
Later that year, the space became a T.G.I. Friday’s. In 2010, it became an Arby’s, and the LPC praised the chain’s plans to incorporate historic details into the new restaurant. However, that Arby’s closed only seven months after opening.
The most recent tenant, a store named Ladies & Gents that sold discount jewelry and apparel, left the premises in 2017. In August 2011, the Eagle’s Linda Collins reported that the store had installed “hot pink material and wall panels” over the still-existing original fixtures – a move unanimously condemned by the LPC at the time.
After the store left, landlord Jemal kept the interior intact. “We respect the interior and exterior landmarking of the building and look forward to working with a restaurateur or other retailer that uses the unique building attributes to enhance the business while preserving Brooklyn’s glorious past,” he told the Eagle’s Lore Croghan in 2017.
Restaurateur Frizell told the Post that the 100-seat main-floor dining room and two upstairs spaces are being restored. The restaurant will likely become a steak and chop house rather than a seafood haven like the original.
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