Pay-What-You-Want is OVER! Blu Goes Black

Zod Arifai's two restaurants, Blu and Next Door, close exactly one week after he said he would keep them open "a few more months."

Restaurant Blu, Sept. 1, 2015. The small sign reads, "Gone Fishing." Photo: Eric Levin

Exactly one week after telling NJM that he was extending the run of his two Montclair restaurants, Blu and Next Door, for “a few more months”—instead of shutting them down, as originally planned, after service on Saturday August 29—chef/owner Zod Arifai has summarily shut down both restaurants.

The phone at Blu this afternoon gives the following message: “Blu has turned to black. Have a good summer.”

Zod Arifai with his father, Durak, also a chef, at Blu in 2009. Photo: Chris Crisman

Zod Arifai with his father, Durak, also a chef, at Blu in 2009. Photo: Chris Crisman

Summer doesn’t end until September 23rd, but Arifai and his restaurants are gone.

Reports of rudeness by the crush of customers and stingy payments by people gorging themselves could not immediately be confirmed.

Update 5:40 pm:

Arifai responded to an email seeking his comment:

“I tried to keep it open for a few more months, however there were too many complications. My lease was up August 31. Many of my workers have found jobs, and they don’t want to work for just a few months.

“I have plans for travel [that have been in the works] for three months now, and I cannot cancel those plans. I have reservations in some of the world’s most sought-after restaurants, including El Celler de Can Roca [in Girona, Spain] in two weeks that my friends in Europe made. This restaurant is sold out one year in advance. I have plane tickets that would cost me thousands of dollars to change or cancel.”

Given all that, why did Arifai even consider staying open beyond August 29? One reason is that he has a well-trained kitchen staff who can execute his dishes perfectly. As he said in a later email…

“I was not planning on staying myself and working the two months. I was going to cancel the first two weeks of my trip, which was for relaxing before I do my tour of eating.”

Update, Wednesday, September 2:

In an email this morning, Arifai was a little more forthcoming about why he suddenly shut down. Especially after the front-page story on Pay-What-You-Want ran in the New York Times on Tuesday, August 18…

“It has been a different type of customer coming in the last few weeks,” Arifai wrote. “They are eating seven or eight dishes per person and leaving $2 in total. A few tables actually did not want to pay  at all.”

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