The Del’Rio Diner, which existed for over 40 years as a South Brooklyn staple, closed its doors for good on Sunday, July 24 due in part to rising operating costs.
Located between Kings Highway and Quentin Road in Bensonhurst, the Del Rio produced quality food, service and memories for its guests. In light of the Del’Rio’s closing, Councilmember Mark Treyger and Assemblymember William Colton recognized the diner’s impact on the community and “expressed our appreciation for 40 years of service to the community” by awarding the diner’s owners with a City Council citation and New York State Assembly citation.
“The food at the Del’Rio has always been reasonably priced for working members of our neighborhood. It has been a convenient diner for many families and a neighborhood staple for over 40 years,” said Treyger. “I would argue that they had some of the best burgers and pancakes around town. It is sad to see them go.”
Many of those who have dined at the Del’Rio will remember it for its classic Brooklyn diner atmosphere, personable staff and sizeable portions. Besides being the site for family gatherings, after-school get-togethers and first dates, the Del’Rio also used to host parent-teacher association meetings.
“I remember when my now-husband and I met in our apartment building and he said, ‘Do you want to go out on a date,’ I let my husband choose the place, and of all the diners he chose the Del’Rio,” recalls former Gravesend resident Gay Snyder of her trip to the Del’Rio in October, 1987. “I remember where were sitting exactly. The atmosphere was cheerful, the menu had tons of selections and there were nice sized portions. It was a typical Brooklyn diner atmosphere. The service was good and the staff was friendly.”
Rising operating costs resulting from recent legislation boosting minimum wage is one thing that, diner owners say, has made it increasingly difficult for small businesses such as the Del’Rio to keep up with their larger competitors. Still, the Del’Rio’s sister establishment, the Vegas Diner (1619 86th Street) will remain in operation.
“A reason for it [closing], partly, would be that it’s getting harder and harder to keep up with the operating costs,” Del’Rio Co-owner Frank Michaels told this paper a few weeks back, “and we have a couple of the original partners who are in their 80s now, so, we had to make the decision.”
Indeed, the Del’Rio’s closure is one of many in a long line of “Mom and Pop” businesses in South Brooklyn, such as the El Greco Diner in Sheepshead Bay, which closed in December, 2014.
“It is a very disturbing pattern. The big chains seem to be taking over the Mom and Pop diners. They [small businesses] employ a lot of people and do not have the resources that the big chains have, in terms of purchasing food, legal and accounting services. It puts them at an extreme disadvantage,” said Assemblymember William Colton. “The Del’Rio did not want to charge customers more. It just did not hit them in the gut as the right thing to do, to start charging $20 for a hamburger.”
Anna Spivak contributed reporting to this article.