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Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Westport’s Onion Alley Restaurant Closes; Main Street Landmark Since 1985

Main Street’s Onion Alley Restaurant is no more.
Onion Alley closes after 18 years. photo

The downtown Westport restaurant and pub, a mainstay of the street since 1985, quietly closed its doors Sunday night for the last time.

“I couldn’t put together the management for it and it just wasn’t performing,” building owner Drew Friedman told WestportNow.

Friedman, 74, who owns interests in several properties in the downtown area, said the restaurant had not done well since Westport’s Fine Arts movie theatres, up the street on Post Road East, closed at the end of 1998.

“We were heavily dependent on the theaters for nighttime traffic and it hasnt been the same since,” he said.

The theatre building is now Restoration Hardware.

Even opening the restaurant for breakfast in recent months did not result in much improved sales, he said, and the seven-day-a-week breakfast operation was cut back to only weekends.

Friedman said he began work on Onion Alley in 1983 and finally opened it in 1985. It served diners on two levels and in the summer had a roof deck for drinks and entertainment.

Music emanating from the roof deck sometimes prompted noise complaints to the police. A fire set by vandals on the roof several years ago worked its way downstairs into the restaurant, causing heavy damage.

A sign outside the restaurant said 6,000 square feet is available.

Friedman said he has had several inquiries and is optimistic about leasing it to a new tenant fairly quickly. He said it could be another restaurant or a retailer.

“One problem is that it is set back 60 feet from the street and it would take an imaginative retailer to get people from the curb to inside,” he said.

Meantime, the Onion Alley signs remain but with large “Space for Rent” notices prominently displayed alongside.


Posted 01/07/04 at 11:53 PM  Permalink


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Onion Alley business went away for a few reasons. One, at night, the Mall is closed, thus no shoppers. Secondly, prices went up quite a bit and was no longer attractive to those who have to watch their spending. We’ll miss it.

Posted by Kapono on January 08, 2004 at 02:15 AM | #

Oh, too bad—they had the BEST seafood chowder around.

Posted by lee on January 08, 2004 at 05:45 AM | #

The last time that Drew Friedman closed a restaurant (“Wild Scallion”), he turned the property into a Burger King. Somehow I can’t imagine that happening on Main Street.

Posted by JJ on January 08, 2004 at 12:28 PM | #

This is just another example of Westport losing its uniqueness. And the cause, outlined by the owner, was a prior loss of the same, the Fine Arts Theater.

Main street is becoming nothing but a chain store strip mall. It�s a shame. Westporters for the most part don�t even shop there. A concerted effort needs to be made to make Main street more interesting, more unique and something worth visiting and utilizing.

Matthew Mandell
Director, Partrick Wetlands Preservation Fund

Posted by Matthew Mandell on January 08, 2004 at 02:22 PM | #

Let’s not be deceived by the “official” reasons for this closing.  “Management issues” and dwindling traffic/revenue are a crock.  Everyone knows the real reason - greed. 

Friedman and his partners not only ran the restaurant, they also own the building.  And they stand to make a boatload by selling it to a developer who will open, yes, yet another chain retailer on main street. 

It’s hypocrisy to the highest degree for drew to imply that the closing of the downtown movie theatre - in favor of a national retailer - is a primary cause for the closing of westport’s favorite family-friendly restaurant, especially SINCE HE is one of a handful of downtown landlords who have moved out nearly ALL of the mom-and-pops in their blind pursuit of $$$ from national retailers.

giving their hardworking staff less than 72 hours of notice about the closing and not showing the courtesy of reaching out to longtime customers by giving them advance notice and THANKING THEM for their loyal support the past 18 years shows the partnership’s true colors, not inane statements pointing the finger at outside forces that are to be blamed for the closing.  what a sham.

Posted by Kyle on January 08, 2004 at 05:48 PM | #

I am very very saddened by Onion Alley’s closing.  I loved the people that worked there and the restaurant.  They were incredible.  I will miss them like I would miss my own family!
Many will miss them.  This is very difficult.

Posted by Tricia on January 08, 2004 at 09:08 PM | #

I live on Main Street and will dearly miss this restaurant and the people who worked there.  Especially Charlie!

I am very saddened by this news.

Posted by Tricia on January 08, 2004 at 09:09 PM | #

Re: Comments by Mathew Mandell. Who is he and where does he live?

Posted by Street Watcher on January 10, 2004 at 09:05 PM | #

The management/revenue issues actually have some validity, although other points raised above are also duly noted. The restaurant’s decline was inevitable once Nick Visconti left as general manager/part owner, and Drew Friedman took over. Once Mr. Friedman had full controll of the restaurant, his outlandish “ideas” on how to improve business eventually destroyed the original concept. Onion Alley was once a reasonably priced restaurant serving high quality food. The menu was both simple and eloquent. The burgers were the best I’ve had at any restaurant anywhere, and entrees of Onion Alley’s quality and price are none to be found elsewhere. That all changed once Mr. Friedman took charge and changed Onion Alley into a glorified diner. Breakfast? Eight page menue? Ten different kinds of fish cooked your way? Choice of two side dishes out FIFTEEN? BBQ pitt? little quotes like “Jeff eats this every day and he’s very healthy”? It became an everything menue, kind of like the menue at Andros Diner in Bridgeport (which is pretty good if you are looking for a diner). If Drew Friedman had invested a little money in attracting competant management, not messed with the original restaurant concept and kept well away from involvement in the menu, Onion Alley would still be in business.

Posted by littlelunar on January 12, 2004 at 10:15 PM | #

Wondering what westporters would like to see in that space… another restaurant? what kind?

Posted by Jessica on January 30, 2004 at 02:13 AM | #