For more than four decades, Le Cirque has been one of New York City’s iconic restaurants, offering impeccable French cuisine and an ambience second to none. However, financial reality is currently delivering a powerful blow to LeCirque’s owners, Sirio and Mauro Maccioni, who were forced to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
The reason for this move is that as many as 100 creditors are owed a total of anywhere from $500,000 to $1 million, which Sirio Maccioni attributes to cash-flow problems that he considers temporary. Without this legal maneuver, the Maccioni’s would be forced to give up their lease on both Le Cirque and another of their restaurants, Circo.
While the storm looks to have passed from that vantage point, Tom Valenti, the head chef at Le Cirque, abruptly announced his resignation on March 28. That could put the restaurant in a bind for the short term at a time when they need to reinforce their credibility.
That’s because other setbacks over the past five years could be seen as creating a cumulative effect that makes potential diners take notice. This downturn began after the food critic for the New York Times considered the food overpriced and dropped his rating of LeCirque to a single star, which forced the Maccioni’s to institute early bird discounts that tend to be frowned upon by upscale restaurants.
The hits just kept coming, the next one being delivered by employees, both past and present. In 2014, the Maccioni’s had to deal with litigation related to wage violations against staff members, and due to the fact that there were numerous complaints, the lawsuit was also given class-action status. Then, last year, harassment litigation was then brought against the restaurant, which the Maccioni’s have vigorously denied.
While it would be easy to consider Le Cirque doomed, given all of the above circumstances, they’ve been able to stay nimble enough to succeed in four different locations since opening up in 1974. That sort of resilience is something to be admired and figures to sustain them through the current firestorm.