Citing high rents, the iconic restaurant will serve its last meal on New Year's Eve. 
Le Cirque Closing
Credit: Amber De Vos/Getty Images

Even if you’ve never dined at Le Cirque, the classic French restaurant in New York’s Midtown, you’ve felt the ripples of its legacy. And now, it’s coming to an end—at least at its current location. On Tuesday, founder Sirio Maccioni’s son, Mauro Maccioni, told the New York Times that they’d be serving their last meal on New Year’s Eve, citing high rents.

The end of the year will mark the end of an era for Le Cirque. Since its inception in 1974, it’s produced chefs like three Michelin-starred Daniel Boulud and James Beard Award-winning pastry chef Jacques Torres, along with recognizable television chefs like Geoffrey Zakarian. In many ways, the restaurant set the standard for fine French dining in New York—although some would say that that standard is slipping.

Pete Wells, the New York Times restaurant critic not known for mincing words, awarded it just one star when he reviewed it last. Among his bayoneted dishes were a beef carpaccio that “tasted of refrigeration and surrender” and a breadcrumbed Dover sole—aspiring to the canonical French dish of Juila Child fame—that was a “$41 fish stick.”

While that 2012 review perhaps identified a trajectory that had previously been set into motion, if it occurred at all, in recent months troubles of a different sort accumulated. First, the restaurant filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in March, estimating it would need $63,000 just to break even for the following month alone. On top of this, it owed between half a million and a million dollars to creditors, according to Eater. And, to add to the PR nightmare, the restaurant’s been dealing with a lawsuit from former female waitresses accusing former General Manager Alessandro Giardiello of sexual harassment. Oh yes, and there’s a wage lawsuit too.

All of this doesn’t paint a hopeful picture for the once industry-leading restaurant, but Mauro Maccioni has told the New York Times that this isn’t the end. They’re sure to reopen, he’s said, but are looking for a smaller space. Call it the death of fine dining, call it well deserved, but Le Cirque’s place in New York’s restaurant canon is one that is well-secured. Whether it will live on, however—and where—is the question.