The End of an Era: 2004-2017
Things got worse for Gage & Tollner — much worse. When T. G.I. Friday's opened in 2004, purists were deeply offended. Others welcomed the move, while many tried to be stoic. "'People's tastes change,'' Borough President Marty Markowitz said. ''I can go through a whole litany of wonderful, wonderful restaurants that Brooklyn used to be blessed with that we no longer have.'' After three years of business, Friday's closed in 2007.
Later that year, the Brooklyn Paper reported that Amy Ruth's, the Harlem soul-food destination, would be taking over; that news was widely welcomed, but Amy Ruth's never opened in the space. Instead, it remained vacant until 2009, when Raymond Chera, a local Arby's franchisee, submitted an application to the Landmarks Preservation Commission for interior alterations. “We’re keeping everything in place, and anything we move in will be nonpermanent and easy to move out," Chera said. "It will probably be the most beautiful Arby’s ever." A year later, Arby's opened. It closed seven months later. But Gage & Tollner's downward spiral had not reached its lowest point.
For the next six years, Gage & Tollner would be all but unrecognizable. The next tenant, a chain jewelry shop called Ladies & Gents, built partitions that hid the arched mirrors and Lincrusta walls. At a hearing in 2013, the Landmarks Preservation Commission denied the legalization of these alterations, calling them a "failure of design" and "a travesty." Nevertheless, these partitions (or versions of them) remained up for years as the space played host to a revolving cast of bargain retailers, hiding — but also protecting — the interior walls during this interregnum. "In a small consolation to anyone who treasures its Gilded Age glories, the interior remains technically intact, in the same way a Mayan city lies undiscovered in the jungle," said Justin Davidson in New York.
"How many circles of Hell does Gage & Tollner have to pass through... before it attains redemption?" asked Brooks of Sheffield, author of the blog Lost City.
In December 2016, the last tenant left; the building was cleaned out, and the Jemal family—current owners of 374 Fulton—announced they were looking for a new restaurant to take over the space.
That's where we come in.