Arts and Entertainment | Food and Drink

YIR 2013-14: The Heights closes due to fire damage, reopens after 3-month renovation

  • Kiera Wood / Senior Staff Photographer
    in the heights | After being closed for more than three months, The Heights reopened at the end of April with a renovated space, a new menu, and largely new staff—and its frozen margaritas.

Following a long absence from the Morningside Heights nightlife, The Heights has made a strong comeback in the last month.

In late January, a six-alarm fire in the 111th Street Citibank caused major damage to The Heights, which shares a wall with the bank. Smoke and water damage to the ceiling in the main bar and a lack of heat in the building resulted in The Heights closing for more than three months. 

While Feras Samad, the owner of The Heights, had originally predicted that The Heights would be closed “a couple weeks at least, maybe even a couple of months,” the effects of the smoke resulted in major renovations, and old patrons found a dramatically different Heights upon reopening.

“What we kept was the shell,” Samad said in early May. “We redid our bricks to remove the charring, removed our drop ceiling, went for the industrial look. ... Everything is new—new bar, new ceilings, new tables, new floor.”

Kiera Wood/ Senior Staff Photographer
new heights | The Heights’ owner Feras Samad discusses the ongoing repairs to the bar and restaurant in January.

The prolonged closure also yielded a new staff at the local favorite, with 95 percent of the kitchen staff and 75 percent of the floor staff newly hired. 

Included in the shakeup is a new chef, who has introduced an updated menu to accompany the bar and grill’s drinks.

While Samad confirmed that “The Heights’ greatest hits” are still fixtures on the menu, “the quality of the food is much better than it had been in the past,” he said.

Since reopening on April 17, The Heights has bounced back quickly from its prolonged closure, thanks in part to its loyal clientele.

“The first day we opened, we just put our A-frame out, and we were just open for drinks that Thursday night, and within 30 minutes we were jammed,” Samad said. 

[Related: See students react to The Heights being closed.]

While the old crowd was certainly a factor in bringing The Heights back, Samad also noted that new customers have begun to frequent his establishment. While The Heights’ regulars have returned, the reopening has also brought new visitors who frequent the restaurant.

“I think we have a lot of new clientele, lots of new customers—administration, locals, obviously students, people coming from uptown and downtown, alumni,” he said.

Samad credited social media as the reason for the new patrons, citing how support from old customers and media coverage have given The Heights a boost since its reopening. 

While there are still some kinks to be worked out, Samad and his staff are excited for what will come next.

“I think our business has improved,” said Samad. “We’re trying to improve and make progress and people have to be aware of that.”

sarah.roth@columbiaspectator.com | @sarah_e_roth

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