Caliza has closed permanently

Caliza Mezcal Bar y Cocina, the Mexican restaurant opened by Tribecan and restaurateur Josh Lebowitz in early 2023, has closed permanently. This is a real loss and much too quick a demise. He did a beautiful renovation of the space, added a permanent terrace on the north side, and activated a corner that had been dark since, I believe, 2014. (Thanks to L. for the heads up.)

The cause? “Not enough people,” Josh said. “The main restaurant was very expensive to run. At the end of the day I think it was the wrong concept for the location.”

I was a big fan of his to-go spot next door, which he opened in February 2023, especially for the breakfast wraps. But the neighborhood was not able to support that either.

“Sales went down next door significantly and I honestly don’t know why. We had a good holiday season but since the second week in December until last week we only saw about 30 customers per day. Weekends were also extremely quiet. Tribeca in general is very seasonal including all holidays and weekends.”

This has me concerned for the neighborhood’s potential to support a casual lunch spot. Mulberry & Vine was not able to survive post-pandemic, with the Goldman crew cut back. And Citi might also fail to keep a nearby fast casual open. There are certainly fewer workers in the building, and perhaps even fewer in the future. And they have their own cafeteria inside — maybe that is drawing folks.

Hoping something will come along to fill the space — and wishing Josh luck in his next venture.

 

28 Comments

  1. As a neighborhood resident I gave the main restaurant a try. My entree came by itself no sides… nada. Way overpriced. Owner put way too much emphasis on decor over food. When they first opened there was no clue they opened. No signage. Sorry to see any restaurant fail but you need to know how to run a restaurant…

    • This is spot on. The prices were absurd for what you got and given that they were competing with other mexican restaurants in the area (Fonda, Casa Carmen, Chela at the time, El Vez, etc). no way they’d sustain business in a pretty remote area most of the time (Tribecans are almost never around, or at least the very wealthy).

      Caliza Next Door could have been successful had they just focused on that but again given whats going on at Citi and the lack of people getting lunch in Tribeca is probably the nail in the coffin/warning sign.

      Still amazes me how Sweet Green closed, seemed like almost every Citi employee went there. Not sure what type of business you need to run to stay in business other than coffee. And yet these corporations still demand people to be in the office to “support local businesses”. News flash, they are all closed.

  2. It’s a great corner. Other restaurants get packed in the area. Locanda Verde, Tribeca Grill, and Benvento Cafe are all just across the street and are regularly packed.

    I never had a chance to eat there, but it’s a shame to see the concept didn’t work.

  3. We need a luncheonette ( Diner) on this corner. That would work between neighborhood people and CITI.

  4. In order for small businesses to survive we need two things (1) We need more residents and housing, and (2) the old Karens in Tribeca to stop making it so hard to run a business (limited hours, design, liquor license). Otherwise we will get a boring neighborhood with 50 more CBD shops, kids toy stores, and women’s fitness classes.

    • Im sorry, but I really didn’t even know what it was..I think if it said Mexican Restaurant somewhere or restaurant in spanish…I always just walked right passed it daily

    • In response to “B”: kindly stop denigrating people by calling them “old”..it is discriminatory when it relates to housing in NYS. Some folks are obsessed with opening more bars and establishments with liquor licenses where they’re not needed…plain and simple. As any repeat business customer will tell you: we enjoy giving support to the establishments that have worked hard for years (decades) and stayed open thru Covid and Sandy flood. Yes we welcome new businesses, of course, but the appropriate kind of business. Adding more liquor licenses and late night hours degrades the neighborhood and dilutes the businesses of places that remain through all the adversity.

      • Don’t understand how you are qualified to be the gatekeeper of Tribeca by only giving preferential treatment to those “that have worked hard for years” in Tribeca. Many of those shops have closed due to certain nonsensical pressures that make having a business too difficult.

        We lack affordable housing and affordable eating places because people think they own the neighborhood, not just their own apartment.

        • Hi B, I think you are on point and once they start charging vehicles to get into lower Manhattan there will be less people and higher cost of goods and services making it even more difficult.

          • Who is driving to a restaurant like Caliza?

            These arguments are so disingenuous. It’s a restaurant meant for locals and office workers. Congestion pricing for deliveries is not going to make a material impact on menu prices. The denominator will be too big for the small numerator to make any difference.

        • B: It is a widely accepted and well known fact a significant percentage of new restaurants fail in NYC. New restaurants in Tribeca (where so many restaurants are already located with loyal clientele) near Citibank headquarters are not immune to those statistics. Failures such as Sweetgreen, Wise Fish, Digg Inn, The Palm, Caliza and others were all very well funded and couldn’t compete because over time their high prices, the disappointing quality of the food, the greedy landlords, or the profit margins were too slim to justify further rounds of funding. Since you dislike the Tribeca neighborhood homeowners who pay NYC real estate tax so much here’s my advice to you: when your rental is up, move to Brooklyn.

    • B,
      There is an oversaturation of restaurants/food places.

      Not everything can and should be a restaurant

  5. I really enjoyed many delicious, interesting meals there. I loved the Claudio Limon mural. I hope that can be repurposed. I will miss it and the ice cream! Sorry to see you go

  6. It’s a shame to see that corner empty again. Other than the pizza place (and maybe Dr. Jackson decades ago!), it’s a doomed commercial spot. Camera store lasted ~4 years, Peace cafe ~3…then empty for ages. Hope it’s not that long before another tenant is found.

    (I ate here once. There was a fruit fly in my salad and the lettuce was wilted so I won’t miss it)

  7. What a shame, I really loved the breakfast burritos at Caliza Next Door.

    I guess this corner just doesn’t get enough foot traffic…I bet a 900 foot residential tower would help!

  8. The drop off in December seems to align with Citi’s work from home policy for the holiday season where employees were permitted to work from anywhere of their choosing for the last two weeks of the year. It would be great to have Citi somehow engaged to support local dining options.

  9. I think until corporations bring workers back 100%, until landlords lower rents for commercial, until Tribeca consistently support their local spots…. the list goes on. You want a Diner?… but not too expensive?…. try opening one.. Not sustainable.

    Can’t imagine what the rent was on that space.

    It’s really unflattering to bash someone who has closed a business, whatever the reason. You may not have liked the restaurant, and obviously not everyone are marketing geniuses or successful restauranteurs like some of the ppl commenting on this post.

    But how hard is it to be nice? Are you people that miserable?

    I’m sad to see a local mom and pop effort fail. Regardless.

    Y’all enjoy your Starbucks.

  10. I walked by the place many times and ate there once. Had the enchiladas. Which were good but no sides came with it. I finished the enchiladas in 10 or 15 minutes, paid something like 30 dollars total and left. It is hard to know what could succeed in Tribeca now with the astonomical rents. But there are successes, such as the Mexican taco place on Church Street.

  11. I think you are all too harsh and have too much of an opinion on Caliza. Have any of you – that are posting negative comments – ever run a restaurant or a local biz? Caliza did a great job as far as giving some flare to that corner, the food was great, but it just had never taken off. For those that make comments abt the food or a fruitfly, you have eaten plenty of them in NYC and not noticed at your cheap bargain hunting local spots.

    Somebody tried to do a great thing and get that corner going with a family friendly place that I personally think had really good food. For those that want to comment and throw oil on the fire after somebody tried to do a good thing and open up a great new restaurant concept, you’re scum of the earth to kick a person when they are down. It’s the apathy of people like you that only deserve bad things to come. Pathetic losers!

  12. Such a shame, the staff was great and the lunch pickup was a sneaky “best deal in the hood” with fresh salads made better than sweetgreen and cheaper. Sigh.

  13. The problem wasn’t Caliza! The problem is it’s not more expensive to leave spaces unoccupied (Caliza, Sweet Green and Whichcraft spaces). Landlords should have to pay more in property tax when their rents lead to permanently unoccupied spaces.

  14. The tacos at Los Tacos Numero Uno or Lupe’s are far superior and authentic. The ice cream in the espresso (affogato) was way over priced at Caliza. The server behind the ice cream counter asked for a tip after serving us. There was an $18 bill for the two ice creams, way over priced and snotty servers can set the failure of a restaurant into motion…not “not enough people”. Why not start small with a food truck and test what works and what doesn’t?

  15. Major bummer that it didn’t work. It’s a great location and space. From a family perspective, we’d have gone more if there was a reliable kids menu. I’m sure lots of factors contributed to closing, but in my view there was a missed opportunity for family meal revenue.

    And I agree with Mark above that the incentives are off! It should be costly for landlords to leave space unoccupied. Let’s get some price pressure on these spaces so small businesses have a real shot without having to be insanely expensive for customers.

  16. The concept was not right for the location. That spot would thrive with a Hillstone style menu and a bar with TVs. Make it more welcoming. A place that serves good food but also offers an option to stay and socialize. I am not suggesting high-end but upscale casual with a new and modern aesthetic.

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