Candle 79 to Go Dark

New development forces vegan eatery to close

22 Nov 2019 | 03:38

After nearly 20 years on the UES, Candle 79 is closing at the end of the year.

Located at 154 East 79th, Candle 79 has served the UES community for 16 years. The eatery, which is known for its organic and vegan cuisine, offers much more, said General Manager Benay Vynerib.

Vynerib, who has been with the restaurant since its inception, said when they heard that the entire corner of 79th and Lexington was being turned into a high rise, it was a like a punch in the gut.

In February 2018, HFZ Capital Group purchased the First Republic Bank on the southeast corner of 79th Street and Lexington Avenue and it already owns six adjacent properties at 150, 152, and 154 East 79th Street, and 1129, 1131 and 1133 Lexington Avenue. According to the Real Deal, an 18-story apartment tower will be replacing it.

“We found out about it [the closure] on social media, if you can believe it,” she exclaimed. “It’s just a loss to NYC.”

People continued to come there because of the warm atmosphere, farm-to-table organic food and ultimately, a place that felt like home, she said.

Giving Back

Bart Potenza and his partner Joy Pierson started the original Candle Café at 107 Third Ave. As it grew in popularity, Candle 79 was born five blocks away and in April 2002, Candle Café West opened at 2427 Broadway. However, in April, Con Edison shut down the entire building and the West Side restaurant has remained closed.

Vynerib reminisced about her time at the restaurant. Over the years, she has seen kids grow into adults, got to know customers quite well, witnessed wedding and bar mitzvah receptions and even observed Paul McCartney sing happy birthday.

“We’re just really sad,” she said. “It’s what’s going on in New York. It’s an institution.

She explained that Candle 79 also gives back. It donates food to the Unitarian Church of All Souls at 1157 Lexington Ave., and has contributed to many charitable causes.

“It’s been an amazing experience and opportunity,” she said.

Since announcing the impending closure, the restaurant has been packed and people have expressed their gratitude for their many years in the community.

Russell Wiese, who lives on the UES, has been coming to Candle 79 for 15 years. According to Wiese, the combination of the ambiance and tasty food has kept him coming back. He’s still in shock that it’s closing.

“I think it’s such a loss,” he said.

“We’re just really sad. It’s what’s going on in New York." Benay Vynerib, Candle 79 general manager