Ellen’s Stardust Diner has been a Theater District fixture since 1987, famous for its retro ’50s design, subway car entrance, and singing waitstaff. But like so many other restaurants in New York City, Ellen’s struggled to reopen due to the pandemic. As Broadway World reported in July, a photo on Facebook showed a notice posted at the diner from the landlord that said Ellen’s owed $618,459.22 in back rent. But good news–Time Out NY now reports that the restaurant and landlord seem to have resolved their conflict, and Ellen’s will reopen (singing waiters and all!) as of tomorrow.
When Ellen’s Stardust Diner was forced to close on March 16, they laid off their entire staff of more than 200. Shortly after, they launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise $50,000 for their employees. As of the time of publication, they raised close to $28,617.
Located on the corner of West 51st Street and Broadway, Ellen’s has a massive, three-story space. In a 2014 story, Untapped New York wrote how the diner was often a stopping point on the way to Broadway for up-and-coming talent. “Several times a day, a large bucket is passed around for discretionary tips with a specific and dedicated use for one of three things: dance classes, singing lessons or acting classes for the waitstaff,” they wrote.
An employee of Ellen’s told NBC New York in late July that she and her colleagues had not heard from their employer since April. At the time, their landlord gave them until August 7 to pay the back rent or surrender possession. Time Out does not have additional details on how the conflict was resolved, but they spoke with the diner’s longtime artistic director Scott Barbarino who confirmed the reopening.
According to Barbarino, Ellen’s will be open as of Thursday, October 1 from Tuesdays through Sundays from 11:30am to 9:30pm. They’ll operate indoors at 25-percent capacity (in accordance with state guidelines) and will implement temperature checks at the door and mandatory Yelp reservations to enable contact tracing. As for the singing waitstaff, half of the staff–about 30 people–will return for now. Barbarino told Time Out that they “are going to be wearing face shields” and that they’ll “have their own individual microphones—they used to pass mics like in a piano bar, but we stopped that early in March when we realized what was going on.”
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Editor’s Note: This story was originally published on July 24, 2020, and has been updated with new information.
Neighborhoods : Midtown