Are Vegetarian Restaurants Closing Because It’s Too Mainstream?

'sNice vegetarian sandwiches cafe West Village

The West Village outpost of ‘sNice will close at the end of next week, DNAinfo reports. The cafe and vegetarian-vegan sandwich spot was celebrating its 10th year on Eighth Avenue and W. 4th Street this month, at the same time its lease is set to expire. The owners are asking $21,500 a month for the space, and the realtor tells the website many restaurants and cafes have expressed interest; the landlords basically get to pick their favorite. 

It doesn’t seem likely it’ll be another place with a vegetarian-focused menu. In February, ‘sNice’s other Manhattan location, on Sullivan Street, announced it would close, leaving just the company’s Park Slope location, on Fifth Avenue. Is it because the vegan-vegetarian lifestyle has a stronger hold in Brooklyn these days? A recent survey of chefs and restaurateurs on this side of the river indicated that many locals are still searching for meat- and cruelty-free dining options, but many are part-timers, looking to eat less meat but not cut it from their diets entirely.

That means the demand for meatless meals is increasing, but it’s not necessarily leading diners to vegetarian-centric restaurants: it’s forcing other restaurants to make sure that parties of varied dietary needs can be accommodated by more universal options. It’s pushing vegetarianism out of the specialty niche and into a coexistential mainstream. In February, Williamsburg’s popular vegetarian junk food spot, Foodswings, closed. The month before, Cafe Viva, a vegan-friendly pizza place on Second Avenue in the East Village, also closed (and suddenly!).

That said, it’s still just hard out there to run a successful restaurant, especially one that appeals to a niche clientele. In this post-Bloomberg economy, the rents are crazy (no matter which borough you’re in), favoring corporate chains with the dough to spare and the recognition to attract the B&T throngs swarming the streets. It doesn’t mean all the vegetarian restaurants will disappear, just that they’ll have to fight even harder to attract an omnivorous clientele. There are success stories: I went to Champs for dinner on Friday and had to wait almost an hour for a table, and I would have waited three. I mean, WOW!

Follow Henry Stewart on Twitter @henrycstewart

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