Montague Street staple Happy Days Diner closed its doors for the final time in November, ending a run of at least 22 years on the Brooklyn Heights block.
On a walk by Monday afternoon, Brooklyn Paper’s sister publication Brownstoner noticed that while signage for the diner is still up, the venue is definitely closed and a marshal’s order showing the landlord has taken possession of the premises is posted on the glass window. A phone call to the restaurant was met with a disconnected line.
It appears from court filings that the diner was another victim of the pandemic, having apparently not paid rent since February 2020 and having filed a hardship declaration due to lost revenue during the pandemic. However, the state’s COVID-19 Emergency Protect our Small Businesses Act expired on Jan. 15, 2022, meaning the diner had no further recourse from non-payment of rent.
Legal action was first filed on Jan. 20 by building owner 148 Montague Street LLC, with managing agent Russell Harkavy. According to an updated eviction petition filed in July, Happy Days Diner, owned by Onkar Food Corp, owed $632,801.17 through July 2022. Monthly rent for the ground floor restaurant and basement space was $22,380 per month, according to the lease.
Court documents also allege the diner received $124,027 in PPP grant money, but didn’t use any of it towards rent.
In August, the building owner reached a settlement with the diner’s owners, whereby Happy Days Diner could continue to operate until November 30, when it would “voluntarily vacate the premises free of occupants, in broom clean condition and return all keys and security codes to petitioner.” As part of the settlement agreement, the diner’s owners agreed to pay $500,000 to 148 Montague Street LLC.
Lawyer William Neville of Mitofsky, Shapiro, Neville & Hazen LLP represented the building owners and said in filings that the Happy Days Diner owners hadn’t submitted any documentation showing a reasonable excuse for failing to show up in court and that they hadn’t given a “meritorious defense for not paying the $632,801.17 in rent it owes.”
“Respondent does not dispute that it owes the rent sought in the petition,” Neville wrote.
Happy Days Diner took a lease for the space at 148 Montague Street in 2000. According to past lease agreements, monthly rent started out at $7,750. By 2010 it had climbed to $12,000 a month and in 2020 it was $21,095. Jasjit Heera is listed as the president of Onkar Food Corp, the current lease holder.
In its early years, the diner was open 24 hours a day serving late-night party-goers and blurry eyed commuters alike. In 2021, Councilmember Lincoln Restler fondly recalled memories of frequenting the diner in the early hours after big nights out, Curbed reported. In recent years, the diner had reduced its hours to 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Brownstoner reached out to the restaurant for comment, but did not hear back before publication.
This story first appeared on Brownstoner.