Floridita, the popular Cuban restaurant that has become a symbol of the fight against Columbia’s Manhattanville expansion, is scheduled to open by the beginning of next month, owner Ramon Diaz told Spectator on Thursday evening.
The restaurant, which had operated in a Columbia-owned building at 125th Street and Broadway since 1976, is slated to be demolished to make way for the new campus.
Diaz said he was touched by the support he has received from neighbors. “There’s a lot of excitement,” he said. “I get a ton of people every day coming into the place and asking us to open up as soon as possible.”
Construction of the restaurant’s new location is about 10 days from completion, and it will open at the end of September or the beginning of October, Diaz said.
Columbia owned the building at 125th Street and Broadway where Floridita had been located for decades. But in April 2010, Columbia suddenly shuttered the doors of the neighborhood staple ahead of schedule, citing emergency kitchen repairs.
In May 2010, Diaz signed a lease on the new location, a Columbia-owned property at the corner of 125th Street and 12th Avenue.
Soon after that, a required inspection of the new property found significant amounts of loose asbestos. Diaz filed a complaint against Columbia contending that he had not been notified of the asbestos issue prior to signing the lease, arguing that the University had misled him. Diaz paid for cleanup of the asbestos in August 2011, and since then he has been fighting in court to receive reimbursement from Columbia.
So after years of being out of business and maintaining a tumultuous relationship with the University, Diaz is happy to have his restaurant back.
“It’s been a family business for over 35 years,” he said. “I have a lot of support from the community, and I’ve made a lot of friends and my family made a lot of friends. We’re a part of that community and it’s exciting to come back.”
Correction: Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this article stated that the restaurant had been demolished to make way for the new campus. The restaurant is slated for demolition.