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Ben’s Deli, Bay Terrace to part ways

The president of Bayside’s popular Ben’s Kosher Delicatessen Restaurant said a deal to move the eatery to another spot in the Bay Terrace shopping center has collapsed following six months of acrimonious negotiations with Forest Hills−based landlord Cord Meyer.

Ben’s had requested two five−year options to remain at its current site at the Bay Terrace center, but could not afford an 86 percent rent increase imposed by Cord Meyer, said Scott Singer, president of Ben’s.

Cord Meyer had offered to build a new site for the deli in another part of the center, but the talks unraveled earlier this week after six months of discussions, Singer said.

“We were ready to sign,” Singer said. “I am stunned that they killed the deal. We thought we were going to be in Bay Terrace for many years. We have a lot of support in the community, so there is always hope. But for now, we’re back to square one.”

Singer said he had expected to sign the new lease Nov. 14.

Mary Hughes, vice president of leasing for Cord Meyer, said the deli would not be able to stay at its current location at Bay Terrace or move to another site at the center.

“It’s a done deal at this point,” she said.

Singer said the deli’s lease expires in January. He said negotiations with Cord Meyer had been long and contentious.

“Clearly, they want us out,” he said. “They claim they were able to get more money for that space. They’ve rented it to someone else and they did it without telling us or giving us an opportunity to match it. We think that’s kind of unusual treatment for a tenant that has been there for 15 years and run a class−A operation.”

In a statement, Cord Meyer said the owners of the deli were not cooperative during negotiations.

“Cord Meyer faced continual confrontation, rancor, hostility and resistance from the owner and management of Ben’s,” the statement said. “In the current period of economic uncertainty, the last thing we wanted was an empty store or to put a tenant’s employees out of work. However, all of these unfortunate results are attributable to Ben’s insincerity.”

Singer said the deli would search for another neighborhood locale, but he said the eatery’s staff of 40 people would be without work if a new site is not settled upon when its current lease runs out.

“We are actively looking for space,” he said. “It won’t be hard to find space, but it’s a very tight credit environment right now and you have to borrow substantial amounts of money to build a restaurant. There’s not a lot of banks making loans right now.”

Ben’s customers said they would be sad to see the deli leave the shopping center.

“This has upset the patrons,” said Bayside resident Sandy Schwartz, former president of the Bayside Jewish Center. “It’s very frustrating. They serve good food and their prices are manageable. It’s like a family when you go in there. They are decent people.”

Ben’s Deli also has stores in Manhattan and Florida.

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e−mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 156.

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