Oh meatpacking district, how we loathe and love ye! A spring afternoon of shopping in your Diane Von Furstenberg and Yigal Azrouël boutiques can be so lovely, yet your midnight hour coughs up a drunken trove of self-important interlopers that sends us running with tears streaming down our face. That confused ambivalence continues today as we learn that while increasing rents are forcing BBQ restaurant Hog Pit and the venerable French bistro Florent to close, fashion companies are nonetheless moving in. A Steve Madden store will open in the Hog Pit space after it closes on January 19. It's unknown who will move into the Florent space, but Karen Bellantoni, an executive at a real-estate company specializing in retail spaces, said "some serious fashion tenants" have eyes on the meatpacking district, including Bloomingdale's and Barneys.
"Florent, of course, is history," said Bellantoni. "It's like the Second Avenue Deli." But she said there are still good restaurants in the neighborhood, citing Buddakan and Del Posto. As for the popularity of the Meatpacking District, "We've just scratched the surface," she said. "Wait until the High Line opens. I don't think you're going to start to see a whole bunch of chains because they require subway service and pedestrian traffic." Felisa Dell, co-owner of The Hog Pit, has a slightly different point of view. "It started with Jeffrey New York," she said. "Jeffrey was a destination. He was really a pioneer in terms of the [collections] he had. My feeling on [Stella McCartney and Alexander McQueen] is that they're basically giant advertisements. " As for Steve, which will take over The Hog Pit after it closes on Jan. 19, Dell said, "I'm actually kind of happy. Everything around here is so chi-chi."
Now BBQ and fashionistas don't normally run in the same circles (except for those who hail from Texas). But Florent is part of history, and we're sad to see it go. And places like Buddakan and Del Posto, whose grandiosity somewhat scares us, don't qualify as adequate Florent replacements. Even we have a tough time imagining a fashion company fabulous enough to take over the space.