- Historic Sites
The restaurant that changed the way we dine—
August/September 1980 | Volume 31, Issue 5
And so, in April, 1921, Delmonico’s, which for almost a century had symbolized the finest and most refined elements in American society, had to undergo the ignominy of a raid. A pair of Prohibition agents attended a thé dansant and, when they were served alcohol, they promptly blew the whistle and packed the waiter as well as the floor manager off to the station house. Under Edward L. C. Robins, the last manager of Delmonico’s, the restaurant tried to struggle along within the law. But in 1923 Delmonico’s was sued for $18,750 in nonpayment of rent. Eventually, the bill grew to include back taxes and other expenses totalling more than $180,000. On May 21, 1923, Delmonico’s was shuttered and closed.
The remaining assets were divided up between Delmonico’s heirs and creditors. Chappell was there for the final sale of the restaurant’s appointments and watched with horror “hawk-nosed professional buyers stalking among the loaded tables, tapping the wine glasses with knowing fingers or feeling a tablecloth and figuring to a nicety how many napkins they could get out of it.”
There were periodic attempts to revive the House of Delmonico under different guises, and at different locations in New York, but none of them was successful. After ninety-six years, the last ounce of caviar had been consumed, the last glass of champagne had been drunk, and the last dance had been danced.
The party was over. But, as the society columns of the period used to say, “a good time was had by all.”