The 91-year-old Lahiere’s restaurant, Princeton’s first world-class eatery and host to dignitaries from King Hussein of Jordan to Bob Hope, will close its doors forever on Saturday, November 13.
On November 9 owner and general manager Joe Christen confirmed rumors that the restaurant would close this weekend. Barely three weeks ago the building was sold to ML Seven Witherspoon, an investment group, for an undisclosed amount. At the time Christen said Lahiere’s would stay open “for a little while.”
This week he said his initial answer reflected the ambiguity of how long that while would be. Jeff Siegel, president of ML Seven, said the group is looking to put "another high-quality restaurant" in the space. ML Seven is talking with several prospective tenants.
Christen said that he “will take a much-needed vacation” and explore a few options for his future.
The rumors of Lahiere’s closing reached U.S. 1 on November 8 through online comments posted at www.princetoninfo.com in response to the paper’s story on the Lahiere’s building sale in the October 27 issue. A response came November 9 from Christen’s wife, Jill, who wrote:
“Your kind thoughts are so very much appreciated by all the generations of the Christen family! The rumor you heard is correct. My husband, Joe Christen will be operating the restaurant through Saturday, November 13. We both, along with Joe’s parents (the second generation of Lahiere’s) wish to thank all the customers who have passed through our doors, sat at our tables, and dined with us. Joe and his staff may have fed your hungry stomachs, you fed our souls.
“It was a well thought upon decision by us to sell the restaurant. In doing so it enables our own children to become whoever they wish to be in a place they choose to be. Generational businesses are a means of security but they can also be limiting if they are not in the scope of the next generation.
“Make no mistake, Lahiere’s Restaurant may be no longer but the Christen family goes on!
“Thank you again to everyone!”
Lahiere’s opened in 1919, founded by Joseph and Mary Christen. Their son, Leon, earned a bachelor’s in chemical engineering from Princeton University in 1949, then an MBA from Columbia three years later. He developed a career in the insurance industry in Canada before returning to Princeton in 1961 to operate the restaurant with his father.
Joe Christen, the current owner, was born in 1965 and took over at Lahiere’s more than a decade ago.
Joe Christen said the restaurant has nothing special planned as a going-away event. He said, simply, that he hopes to see the restaurant’s regulars and friends one last time.
Lahiere’s, 5 Witherspoon Street, Princeton 08542; 609-921-2798. Joseph C. Christen, general manager. www.lahieres.com.