Don Grayston
Chef Wil Pliler, left, and Tom Sieg at the New Yorker Restaurant in 1998.

SALT LAKE CITY — After 40 years, downtown’s New Yorker Restaurant has served its final meal.

The Salt Lake fine dining institution, which hosted visiting celebrities and Utah’s cultural, political and economic power brokers through the decades, announced the closure to its staff on Monday. Saturday was the New Yorker’s final day of service.

The news came just weeks after the Salt Lake County Health Department announced the New Yorker’s potential role in a large hepatitis A outbreak. According to the department, an estimated 650 New Yorker customers could have been exposed in July and August after an infected restaurant employee potentially handled customers’ food and drink items. As of the Deseret News’ initial coverage on Sept. 10, no additional reported cases of hepatitis A had been traced back to the restaurant’s employee.

Ravell Call, Deseret News
Catherine Burns, right, shown here judging a dessert at the Utah ProStart state finals in 2016, was involved with the New Yorker Restaurant since 1979. The restaurant announced its closure on Monday.

According to Catherine Burns, human resources director for the restaurant’s owning company, Gastronomy, Inc., reasons for the New Yorker’s closure are multifaceted.

“The recession 10 years ago really hurt a lot of fine dining businesses, but it’s been holding its own and doing OK,” Burns told the Deseret News on Tuesday. “It wasn’t any one particular factor. It was just kind of a combination of things.”

Burns has been involved with the New Yorker since 1979, when she was first hired as a server.

“There was nothing like the New Yorker when it opened,” she added. “That was an extremely unique concept. It was absolutely packed. It was the place to be seen. It was very difficult to get a reservation there. It was just a sensation.”

Lala Phunkhang, a Salt Lake City resident who runs the popular food-focused Instagram account and website Salt Plate City, told the Deseret News she was devastated by the New Yorker’s closing. Phunkhang said her father worked at Baci Trattoria, a now-closed restaurant that was owned by Gastronomy, Inc., in the 1990s after he emigrated from Tibet. The company employed a number of Tibetan and Bosnian immigrants over the years.

“All the old money folks would dine there,” said Phunkhang, who had her first New Yorker meal as a child — a gift from one of its founders, the late John Williams. “I must have been eight years old but it was such an experience for an 8-year-old. I’ve only been there a handful of times after that first dinner but every time it was an unforgettable meal and experience. Their staff really makes you feel special, kind of like going to Disneyland.”

Don Grayston
A dish at the New Yorker Restaurant in 1998.

Over her four decades with the restaurant, Burns accumulated a lot of memories there. She recalled when tenor Luciano Pavarotti visited the restaurant.

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“I remember that he ate a lot,” Burns said. “And I remember that he put his arm around me. And I remember when he walked out, he was striding out of the restaurant in his regal way, and he took his scarf, and just threw it over his shoulder and walked out the door. I will never forget that. A huge man, but a very elegant man.

“Most of the time when (celebrities) come in a place like that, it is not because they want people asking for autographs or recognizing them,” she added. “They want to be discreet. So it’s always a challenge to just wait on them normally. And I think we did a very good job of doing that over the years.”