Today’s news:

Famed borough restaurant shuts its doors - Facing bankruptcy, owners claim that ‘host of problems’ led to the restaurant’s downfall

Sheepshead Bay’s historic seafood restaurant is being liquidated. After officially shutting its doors three weeks ago without warning, FWIL Lundy Bros.’ Chapter 11 bankruptcy status has been converted to Chapter 7, members of the Player’s Club, the current owners, told this newspaper this week. The future of the restaurant, as well as all the equipment inside, has been left in the hands of a court-appointed trustee entrusted with divvying up its assets to a host of creditors the restaurant continues to owe. Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a Player’s Club executive said that there is very little hope that Lundy’s will re-open. The restaurant, a longtime community staple, first opened its doors in 1934. It closed in 1977 after owner Irving Lundy died. The current restaurant, located at the corner of Emmons and Ocean avenues, is the second reincarnation of the famed eatery, which celebrated its reopening in grand style in the early 1990s. “If the restaurant ever opens again, I do not think that it will be a Lundy’s,” the executive said, adding that he and his partners are looking for another restaurateur to take over the lease, which would defray some of the $1 million-plus debt they have incurred since taking over the eatery just two years ago. “I think that sucks for the community, as well as for us.” After signing a 20-year lease with Letnek Realty, who manages the property, the Player’s Club took control of Lundy’s back in 2004. They blame their ultimate demise on the “previous tenant’s liabilities” as well as ongoing disputes with Lentnek Realty. Player’s Club officials charge that they unknowingly fell into a hornet’s nest of excessive utility fees from the restaurant as well as Lundy’s Landing, a small cache of shops next door, as well as the rest of the building, which they had to pay, according to their contract, but had no control over. “The common area charges were grossly exaggerated and inflated,” he alleged. “We were ending up paying out $60,000 just to the landlord. We didn’t have a prayer.” The company’s relationship with the landlord reached an all new low when, as the Player’s Club first entered bankruptcy court in late 2006, word had spread that the owner was allegedly shopping around the idea of kicking them out and bringing in an Outback Steakhouse. “It had gone beyond rumor,” officials at Player’s Club alleged. “It was overheard by a few of the restaurant’s employees that representatives from Outback came to the restaurant and were looking it over to see what changes had to be made before they took possession.” The restaurant officially closed its doors on January 12. At the time, the restaurant had just 25 employees, whittled down from the 100 that usually served customers their seafood and famed biscuits. Even if they could pay off their creditors, officials at the Player’s Club said they wouldn’t re-open the restaurant. “There’s too much bad blood,” he said. Donald Lentnek of Lentnek Realty disputed the Player’s Club’s excuses, saying that the only reason the restaurant closed was because, quite simply, they didn’t pay their bills. “They say that they were over-billed but the courts didn’t see it that way,” said Lentnek. “They can make up any excuse they want, but the fact is that they never lived up to their obligations from day two.” Lentnek said that his company is currently in the process of looking for a new tenant to take over the property, but no one is poised to sign a contract as this paper was going to press. Civic activists said that the restaurant was doomed to close, especially since it had been shuttered twice before in the last few years. Last April, officials from the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) ordered the restaurant closed after discovering a number of health code violations, most notably presence of “active rodent infestation” and the “lack of hot or cold running water.” The restaurant was re-opened a few days later after fixing the violations. The corner building is landmarked because of its unique “Lundy’s stucco style.” When the restaurant was first built, actual clam shells from Sheepshead Bay were used to make the walls, historians note.

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