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Famed East Village Deli Closes Its Doors

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It's been a fixture in the East Village for more than 50 years, but the 2nd Avenue Deli - some New Yorker's favorite destination for kosher food - may soon be just a memory. NY1's Rebecca Spitz explains in the following report.

All the peeking in the world won't change a thing - the 2nd Avenue Deli is closed - for now. The owner pulled down the grates New Years Day, after failing to negotiate what he calls a 'fair' lease with the building's new landlord.

"I told them that I have to do extensive repairs to the place, and I need to negotiate a brand new lease," says owner Jack Lebewohl. "I have five years left on my lease at a very high rent, it does not pay for me to do these repairs and just stay for five years."

Lebewohl says the new owner, Jonis Realty, wants him to pay $33,000 per month - up from the $28,000 he's paying now.

Open since 1954, the 2nd Avenue Deli is a neighborhood institution - attracting all kinds of people from all over the world.

"If you're not from the neighborhood, you'd definitely be coming here just for this," says Judy Munoz.

That's exactly what Bob Licht did - coming from New Jersey for corned beef and brisket, or so he thought.

"I've been married for 36 years and I've eaten here before I was married - there's a lot of history, and I'm stunned it's closed," says Licht.

The decision to close was so sudden that long-time customers had no idea what happened.

"My heart is broken; I can't believe it," says Joan Washington. "The 2nd Avenue Deli doesn't just represent pastrami, it represents Jewish-ness on the Lower East Side."

And it represents good business for that stretch of second avenue - business that is already missed.

"They shut down on the first of January and I think our business now is 25% down," says Shahja Han of Tasti D-Lite.

When we called the landlord we were told they have "no comment,' but area residents have plenty to say.

"It's hard to even imagine the neighborhood without the 2nd Avenue Deli - it's obviously an institution," says Evan Sable.

An institution the owner is hoping will remain for years to come:

"If it were just for the financial aspect you wouldn't be here," says Lebewohl. "You're here because you love it."

In 2004, the Second Avenue Deli celebrated its 50th birthday.

- Rebecca Spitz
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