- The Washington Times - Monday, July 29, 2002

From combined dispatches
NEW YORK The Russian Tea Room was jammed with nostalgic borscht fans enjoying martinis and caviar yesterday, the restaurant's final day.
"I'm very upset," said Claire Strauss, sipping a Bloody Mary at the bar. "My husband and I used to come here all the time, for maybe the past 25 years. They have the best borscht in town."
The restaurant, a beloved meeting spot for musicians, actors and publishers next to Carnegie Hall, underwent a three-year, $30 million renovation recently. When it reopened its revolving doors in 1999, it never regained its audience. A plunging economy made it difficult to stay open, managers said.
"It was a very expensive project to build," said Michael Desiderio, the restaurant's general manager. "It never really hit its stride, and then 9/11 struck and it never bounced back."
Chief executive Jennifer LeRoy told staff Friday that the restaurant would close a move she called "the hardest and saddest decision" she ever had to make.
Miss LeRoy inherited the 75-year-old restaurant from her impresario father, Warner LeRoy.
The Tea Room did a brisk business all weekend, with a steady stream of patrons, from somber-faced regulars to wide-eyed tourists who had just learned the news and wanted to be part of history.
"We hope we can get a table," said a woman from Melbourne, Fla., whose daughters were taking part in a modeling competition. "We want to be able to say that we ate here."
Now almost anachronistic in its flamboyance, it opened in 1926 as a conventional tearoom for Russian immigrants as well as a hangout for expatriate members of the Imperial Ballet. It soon became a global magnet for tourists and the in place for celebrities and socialites.
Visual and sensory overload were always part of the attraction: Red banquettes, antique samovars, mirrors, Tiffany glass leaded ceiling, ornately framed paintings, giant floral arrangements, and an icelike sculpture of a dancing bear.

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