By Gabriel Rom
Danny Brown, renowned restaurateur and home-grown star of Queens’ culinary scene, is looking for a little respect.
Brown announced last week that he has walked out of late-stage negotiations with a Long Island City landlord for a new restaurant and will close his flagship Forest Hills restaurant, danny brown Wine Bar and Kitchen, Dec. 31.
“This has been a really tough year with landlords,” Brown said. “I don’t mind saying that, I really don’t. I feel that people were trying to take advantage of us,” he said.
According to Brown, the deal in Long Island City had been signed and executed and construction was about to start, when “the landlord started to disregard some of what was in the lease,” which Brown subsequently terminated. At his Forest Hills location, Brown said that after his 10-year lease expired, he was unable to come to an amicable agreement with his landlord. Neither of the landlords could be reached for comment.
When Michelin, the French publisher of travel books, issued its 2014 New York City dining guide, it gave stars to 58 restaurants in Manhattan, six in Brooklyn—and one in the entire borough of Queens, to Brown’s establishment. This past year, three more restaurants in Queens got the single star, in addition to Brown’s.
“I knew Brooklyn was hipper,” Brown told The New York Times in 2006, but he set up shop in Forest Hills and he said today, rent bickering aside, that he has no regrets.
“This is my hometown. I grew up 10 blocks away from the restaurant. This has been an amazing ride for us, and it’s not anything that we want to get away from. Forest Hills, and Queens more generally, have been wonderful to us.”
“When you first start out you need to make concessions,” Brown continued. “But at this point, after 10 years and five Michelin stars, we feel that there has to be a little bit of a better deal for us.”
Brown remains confident that he will find another space either in Forest Hills or elsewhere in Queens, saying that in Long Island City he has “many other prospects” and hopes to open a location in that neighborhood within the next 12 to 18 months.
For danny brown Wine Bar and Kitchen, Brown plans to evolve the menu and transform its focus to more continental and French food. While the restaurant won’t be around for much longer, a hint at what a future successor might offer will be available to diners starting Oct. 1 when the menu format changes.
“This is going to allow us to push the envelope and take things to the next level. Which, depending on how it goes, Brown said, “may be the next version of danny brown’s.”
Reach reporter Gabriel Rom by e-mail at [email protected]