Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 46
 
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
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A “Bittersweet End”: Lahiere’s Closes After 91 Years in Princeton

Dilshanie Perera

Joe Christen knew that this past weekend would be filled with storytelling and saying goodbye. The owner and general manager of Lahiere’s served his last dinner at the restaurant on Saturday.

“I knew there would be a lot of people coming in, but the response was overwhelming. It certainly surpassed my expectations,” Mr. Christen admitted. “It is a bittersweet end. It was nice to see a lot of people there … everybody was there for the same reason,” contributing to an overall “upbeat weekend.”

Mr. Christen is the third-generation owner of Lahiere’s. His grandparents opened the restaurant, which specialized in French cuisine, in 1919. The space has wined and dined all manner of local, national, and international celebrities over the years, including Albert Einstein and King Hussein of Jordan.

The building where Lahiere’s occupied the ground floor was sold to ML Seven Witherspoon, an investment group affiliated with real estate development and investment firm ML Seven, in late October.

President of ML Seven Jeffrey Siegel said they “have not finalized plans for what happens next” in the space, adding that “we’re having conversations with a great many people.”

Hoping to “do something wonderful that is complementary for the town,” Mr. Siegel expects to determine the space’s new tenant soon.

Mr. Christen acknowledged that he and his family had been “throwing around the idea [of selling the building] for years,” and that more recently they found themselves “in the fortunate position where we had a few interested folks, and we were able to put together something that made sense for us.”

“We were happy with the way it turned out,” Mr. Christen said, noting that the commercial real estate market in general has been difficult to navigate since the economic crisis.

Neither party disclosed the amount of the deal, though the assessment for the entirety of the building, 5 13 Witherspoon, is valued at approximately $3,627,000 with taxes totaling $82,000.

For now, Mr. Christen is going to “tie up loose ends, take a bit of time off to take stock and see what’s next.” He suggested that aficionados “stay tuned to our websites,” including lahieres.com, for future news.

“We’re certainly going to continue with something,” Mr. Christen acknowledged, suggesting that a new Christen family brand would be unveiled in the near future. As for that “something,” it will “have its roots in hospitality and the things we’ve provided over the years.”

“It’ll definitely be something different,” he said.

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