It’s closing time for New St. Clair Restaurant

It’s closing time for New St. Clair Restaurant
Community Newspaper Group / Daniel Bush

It’s closing time for the New St. Clair Restaurant — and mega developer Joe Sitt will be the one turning off the lights.

Sitt, CEO of Thor Equities, snapped up the beloved Boerum Hill greasy spoon — which has ladled out comfort food to patrons since Lyndon Johnson was president in the 1960s — as well as the Atlantic Avenue building it sits in at a foreclosure auction last month.

Thor spokesman Stefan Friedman confirmed the sale, but wouldn’t disclose the price tag or comment on the Wall Street Journal’s account that it cost $5.4 million.

Friedman said the space will reopen as a new retail facility “as soon as possible,” although he admitted that they haven’t nailed down a commercial tenant for the site.

The sale of the four-story building at Smith Street, which houses the restaurant and an adjacent property, dealt a blow to patrons who thought the New St. Clair would stick around after new owners spruced-up the space in 2008.

“I’ve been coming here for years,” said Renee Smith, who enjoyed a burger and fries there on Wednesday and was shocked to learn that one of her favorite dining spots was going out of business. “I’m going to miss this place.”

The New St. Clair building occupies a choice location at the Downtown entrance to Brooklyn’s restaurant row and contains three additional small businesses and four apartments that will stay put for now, Friedman said.

The reported $5.4 million deal is small potatoes for Sitt, who bought the Albee Square Mall in 2001 for $25 million and flipped it seven years later for a cool $125 million. Sitt also sold prime Coney Island land to the city in 2009 for $95.6 million,

For now, Sitt is roosting on his plans for the space, although a Thor rendering shows that a glitzy boutique could be one option. The sale is a key investment for Thor and a boon to the area’s commercial corridor, Friedman explained.

“Developing this marquee corner property will expand a retail district that is already growing along Atlantic Avenue,” he said.

Still, many fear that Sitt will convert the small-scale building into a seven-story tower, which current zoning rules would allow.

“If he does that it’ll be a shame,” said Sandy Balboza, a frequent patron and president of the Atlantic Avenue Betterment Association. “We need places like [the diner].”

New St. Clair was opened by the Costa family in 1967, which ran the place for 40 years and built up a loyal customer base before selling it in 2007 to Spiro Katehis, owner of the Carroll Gardens Classic Diner. Katehis kept the diner’s old name and gave it a trendy makeover, lulling regulars into thinking that it would serve sausages and eggs for years to come.

Katehis was on vacation and could not be reached, and a manager at the restaurant declined to comment.

Reach reporter Daniel Bush at dbush@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-8310. Follow him at twitter.com/dan_bush.

An artist rendering of what The New St. Clair Restaurant might look like after developer Joe Sitt overhauls the building on Atlantic Avenue at Smith Street.
Courtesy of Thor Equities