Post 154 Closes

Post 154 — the restaurant that opened 2 years ago in the former Westport post office — has closed.

The announcement was made last night, in a Tweet. Its website is no longer working.

Post 154

From the beginning, Post 154 faced challenges. It occupied a sprawling building — with a downstairs too — but never defined itself. Was it a hip destination? A lively bar? What kind of cuisine?

Westport’s dining scene has lost some big names recently. But new spots — like Harvest and Parker Steak House — are opening too.

As for the now-former Post 154 — whose name, you have to admit, worked great for both its Post Road address and its previous incarnation — well, that’s a huge real estate hole to fill.

Post 154 restaurant.

Post 154 restaurant.

32 responses to “Post 154 Closes

  1. Armelle Daniels

    And The Cottage is new too and delicious!

  2. Reverse socialism– where we allow public property that belongs to all of us to be privatized for the benefit of a few– isn’t working well. Westport loses its post office to make space for a failing restaurant. Fairfield loses it’s post office so residents can benefit from yet another chain burger restaurant.

    If we’re going to practice reverse socialism let’s target true eyesores– like LaGuardia– for privatization.

    Or, better yet, let public spaces remain public where they benefit all of us.

    • Who decided to sell the post offices? Maybe they should not have been public property in the first place.

      • The USPS is being forced to due to a manufactured financial crisis thanks to congress. Thanks to our friends in Washington the USPS is being forced to fund pensions for Postal Workers who are now in Kindergarten. Manufactured financial crisis = need to sell OUR post offices so we can have wonderful dining experiences like Post 154. Ate there twice… Disappointed both times.

        • So the government screwed up. Is that news? Maybe we should move into the 21st century and allow real competition for the delivery of mail.

          • Ahh yes. That’s the game. After conservative Republicans undermine the post office finances by applying pension funding standards that exist no where else in the world, they claim: “Government is incompetent! Privatize”

            Then our post offices– and other public spaces I’m sure are soon to follow– are sold to the highest bidder. Reverse socialism.

          • Elizabeth Thibault

            This is a short sighted and myopic solution. If we use the private model for mail delivery, we can expect a different postage scale for the stamps. People in densely settled areas will pay 12 cents for a first class letter, people in rural areas will pay $5+ for a first class letter. See, there’s certain services that require a certain degree of evenness and leveling that the private market won’t find to be always acceptable. (Oh, and Westport isn’t densely settled enough to make it that cheap for us either.)

  3. Craig steinke

    Dining experience was really disappointing.
    Tried it 7 or 8 times. Always a number of serious flaws in service or food.
    It is such a beautiful space, just never was able to get the food and service to work at a high consistent level.

  4. Too bad- they did a beautiful job on the space. Service & food were mixed on several visits. Maybe they can move the PO back in, and we can eat and mail at once? Just kidding….

  5. Let’s turn it into a Post Office!

  6. The food was terrible. The service was worse. The best part about the place was the music – which they cancelled in July. That pretty much sounded the death knell.

  7. Carol Lupo-Simek

    We need more restaurants like The Little Barn and Spotted Horse which have the ambiance and menus that cater to singles and family alike. There may be money to spend in Westport but this is still primarily a family-oriented community and these very high end restaurants can’t support weekend-only patronage.

  8. Matthew Mandell

    Carol makes a good point. There do need to be more family friendly places. When Bobby Qs closes another accessible place will be lost.

    Let’s hope whoever comes into Post 154 keeps the interior. What a waste it would be to have that ripped out.

    • I have heard that a restaurateur was interested in the Bobby Q’s space, but the monthly rent was astronomical. Without casual places like this downtown, there will be even less reason to venture there — with kids, or during the evening.

      • Matthew Mandell

        Interesting that the rent is so high. It would have been higher if there was 2nd floor retail allowed. Only office or restaurant can exist on the second floor of that building. Maybe market forces will lower it and another restaurant can come in.

  9. Jeez! These folks tried very hard to make a go of it. Ate there with my extended family just last week – food was excellent and the service decent, despite it being the establishment’s end-run. Real estate is the problem facing all these restaurants — and any other Westport retailer that doesn’t own its own space or fit within a very narrow business model (e.g. chain clothing retailer, financial firm.) Score another victory for the business-killing landlords, soon there won’t be any tenants left.

  10. I would caution anyone from making broader generalizations about socialism, capitalism or even the ongoing role of the Post Office. True, the USPS regional management was stupid at selling prime space at low prices during the recession. But they didn’t need all that prime space, so selling off was inevitable. Insofar as the unaffordable rents are concerned, it seems to be a localized phenomenon. Westport commercial real estate is limited in quality and owned by folks using a “harvest” strategy. Go a few miles east to Fairfield and you’ll find a far more vibrant, and affordable, local retail scene.

  11. This is all overblown. The only thing that is hurting the PO is email and the Internet. If you have been following the magazine industry, subscriptions are way down. Fax and Fed Ex did not help.

    This past week 2 new restaurants opened. A few will close. Post 154 had problems from the beginning. The menu was wrong for Westport tastes. Then new management came in and tried to fix it. But it is a huge space that is probably too big. Week days had to be a killer.

    The New Bedford Square will add more restaurants so relax. Saugatuck has become the go to place for now. Our town will be there once Beford is finished. And let’s not forget Bar Tacos success and Vespa.

  12. Nicolette Weinbaum reported on the forced liquidation of the Westport Post Office due to a manufactured crisis that was engineered to benefit California Senatior Diane Feinstein’s husband’s business interests. The legendary Dan Woog contributed his insight in the report:

  13. Bart Shuldman

    The vidoe is a nice production–BUT WRONG regarding the pension issue. If there is a conflcit of itnerest with a senators husband, please let us all know.

    However, the issue with the Post office and their pensions and medical benefits is the fact they were unfunded. Just like we see in CT, eventually underfunding the pension plan will cause real financial problems. A ‘catch-up” program was started, to insure that enough money was avaialble when a post officer retired. Every business has to do this, and as we watch, all states and municipalities need to do the same. And every President from both parties for years decided not to fund the Post Office pension and medical benefit plan. They are all part of this mess. Here are some details:

    The financial woes of the U.S. Postal System have become a point of contention on Capitol Hill. The Postal Service is supposed to make a $5.5 billion payment to its retiree health care fund by November 18th… but doesn’t have the money.

    US Postal Service workers have a retiree health care benefit in addition to their pension. Before Congress passed the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006, the USPS operated under a pay-as-you-go model for retiree health care funding. The new law requires the Postal Service to pre-fund its benefit obligations.

    “The idea is that enough money is saved over the course of a career that the benefit is fully paid for by the time the worker retires.

    Thanks to these prefunding payments, the Postal Service has greatly reduced its unfunded obligations for retiree health benefits. At the end of fiscal year 2010, these obligations were under $49 billion – a substantial sum, but much more manageable. If the Postal Service continues making its prefunding payments, its unfunded obligations for retiree health benefits will be around $33 billion by the end of the decade. And the postal service will be on course to pay these benefits over time,” a Congressional insider explained.

    But this pre-funding has become a lightning rod of controversy.

    Members of the postal workers union say the pre-funding requirement has created a fiscal mess. Some people have even claimed that law has the effect of requiring the postal service to fund retirement obligations for people who are not yet employed by the USPS–potential future employees.

    No one ever intended the law to work that way. And, in fact, it doesn’t. Although accounting rules require the postal service to calculate future liabilities, including those for projected future employees, the law only requires pre-funding of obligations to actual current and past employees.

    • Hello, Bart, and thank you for your praise about the quality of my video – and of course, once again my thanks to Dan for appearing in the video.

      You might want to do a bit more research into the topic, Bart, but it’s well-documented that the sale of post office real estate around the nation is a “manufactured crisis” that is greatly enriching Sen. Feinstein’s well-connected husband, Richard Blum. His company – CBRE – got a “no-bid” exclusive contract to handle all liquidations of tax-payer funded and historic USPS properties. More to the point, it represented BOTH SIDES of most of the transaction in violation of its fiduciary duty to maximize the value of the post offices properties. The price of the gorgeous Westport post office was significantly below market value. http://www.accuracy.org/release/nyt-report-on-selling-post-offices-and-sen-feinsteins-husband-profiting-from-manufactured-crisis/

      Many investigative journalists have uncovered that the massive “unfunded liabilities” for post office workers is a Congress-generated scam – they have to pre-fund liabilities for a period of seventy-five years to cover postal workers who haven’t even been born yet. http://www.accuracy.org/release/postal-service-crisis-brought-on-by-bizarre-law/ So I respectfully take exception to your contention that “the law only requires pre-funding of obligations to actual current and past employees.”

      Investigative journalist Peter Byrne documented Feinstein’s involvement in his thoroughly-researched book, GOING POSTAL. Byrne reports that “the husband of U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein of California has been selling post offices at bargain basement prices—often to his own business partners. Richard C. Blum is the chairman of CBRE Group Inc., the largest commercial real estate firm in the world. In 2011, the Postal Service awarded Blum’s company an exclusive contract to sell off postal real estate in cities and towns across America. Byrne’s in-depth investigation details the many apparent conflicts of interests driving the CBRE deals. It brings to light a scathing government audit of Blum’s contract that is being ignored by the Obama administration.” [from the book blurb at PeterByrne.info]

      It should also be noted that Senators Coburn and Carper — who have been responsible for introducing legislation that destroys the viability of the postal service – have been receiving five-figure donations from UPS and FedEx, two corporations who would love to not have to compete against the USPS.

      Aside from the utter corruption and malfeasance of our elected officials, Bart, I’d be surprised if you wouldn’t find it at least a little sad that rampant crony capitalism is dismantling an American institution that goes back to 1775 and had Benjamin Franklin as its very first postmaster general. Closer to home, a piece of my childhood died when the Westport post office was sold to out of town investors from Atlanta and converted to a celebrity-chef restaurant while the great employees of the Westport PO were stuffed into that small space near the Playhouse (which has all the charm of a bowling alley). Call me sentimental, but I remember standing on tiptoes in front of the magnificent building at 154 Post Road to mail my grandmother a birthday card and that sunny sense of accomplishment I felt when the envelope disappeared into the blue post box.

      • Bart Shuldman

        There are 2 issues you raise. The senior democratic senator from California and her husband and the no bid contract sounds
        Criminal. I would hope you continue to pursue this.

        The other issue about pensions we can respectfully disagree. The pay as you tonsured that is being replaced is right. Every company in the US that has a pension plan accrues money once an employee is hired to insure there are funds available to pay the promised benefit. You should do more research and while at it, look at the issue tax payers in CT face as the states pension plans remain over 50% unfunded.

        As for the Post Office, I think you have it wrong. First, to protect the security of the US it is my belief we will never see it shut down. The issue facing the post office is well known, email and the Internet has removed so much mail the costs are now allocated over much less mail. The right thing to do is right size the business for the much lower revenue. Just look at how Amazon is now using the Post Office to deliver packages on the weekend. The PO is trying to reinvent itself.

        It is sad to see Senator Feinsten take advantage of something that had to get done. The PO has to streamline their business in the new economy. You should easily understand that.

        • “The PO has to streamline their business in the new economy. You should easily understand that.”

          Interestingly enough, Bart, my research into this topic reveals that the “new economy” is greatly boosting the post office’s revenues. It’s easy to see why. While Amazon is decimating the WalMarts of the world in the new economy, delivery of goods/products via web-based commerce benefits the USPS with higher-margin parcels. You should easily understand that! J

          As such, it’s not a revenue problem that is forcing the post offices to sell their landmark properties at a steep discount – it’s the larger problem of a thoroughly corrupt federal government. Over decades, we the taxpayers paid for beautiful, landmark buildings so our U.S. postal service to be located in the center of American cities and towns around the country. I’m surprised to see that you have no problem with out-of-town investors coming into Westport and buying up our town’s astoundingly beautiful post office far below its market value.

          I’ve lived in Westport all my life, and I made this video report because I was disturbed that the “privatization” of public property (at the behest of corrupt federal politicians) had such a negative impact on the culture of this town. There’s a bigger picture here than meets the eye, and what’s happening behind the scenes with our corrupt elected officials has had a ripple effect on the lives of Westporters that can’t be undone.

          • Bart Shuldman

            Nicolette:

            From my perspective there are 2 different issues your raise, one I very much support and one I very much disagree.

            I support your issue regarding the senior democratic senator, Dianne Feinstein, and how she has potentially used her position to benefit her husband’s business. This is government at its worse and hopefully people like you will bring this to light. We are watching a very strange election and it shows that Americans are upset, no longer trusting or believing in our government or our elected officials. Please, continue to pursue this issue and I hope one day to read, that if true, Senator Feinstein and her husband pay dearly.

            Also, if you believe the Westport PO building was sold at a deep discount, do you know the name of a developer willing to pay more? I have a hard time accepting that any commercial building in Westport could be sold, for a steep discount.

            As for the issue of closing post offices, I respectfully disagree with you. It is clearly a revenue issue, but more importantly a cost issue.

            First, I applaud the work to control costs. If the post office business can be done with less buildings and less people, yeah!! It is time that the US government behave as all of us have to, it’s not a blank check they can spend.

            I also applaud the new owners of the Westport post office and their desire to keep the look of the building. It builds good will within Westport and the community and keeps the beauty of the building. Hopefully we will see someone else open a store or restaurant.

            As for why the buildings need to sold, its best to ‘get into the details’. Below are statistics issued by the post office. While revenue has been relatively flat for 10 years (due to significant postage price increases), the unit volume is significantly lower. When volume declines by over 30%, costs must be reduced. If not, then the price increases they instituted would have been much higher. And, if prices increased more than there is a good chance that volume would decline even more. So, in my opinion, the post office costs had to come down, which includes people and less buildings.

            I have watched as old banks become restaurants. I have watched as old post offices the same. Now watching the old Y become a huge benefit to Westport while it keeps the beauty of the existing buildings. Change is inevitable. A secular change happened to the mail industry. And in a rare occasion, the government decided to lower costs and not burden the US tax payers with the losses.

            2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005
            Annual Revenue $67.8 B $67.3 B $65.2 B $65.7 B $67.1 B $68 B $74.9 B $74.7 B $72.7 B $69.9 B
            Total Career Employees* 486,822 489,727 522,144 551,570 583,908 623,128 663,238 684,762 696,138 704,716
            Total Mail Volume 155.4 B 158.4 B 159.9 B 168.3 B 170.9 B 176.7 B 202.7 B 212.2 B 213.1 B 211.7 B
            Total First-Class Mail Volume 63.6 B 65.8 B 68.7 B 72.5 B 77.6 B 82.7 B 90.7 B 95.9 B 97.7 B 98.1 B
            First-Class Single Piece Mail Volume** 21.5 B 22.6 B 23.2 B 25.8 B 28.9 B 31.6 B 35.4 B 42.3 B 44.4 B 45.9 B
            Total Shipping / Package Volume*** 4 B 3.7 B 3.5 B 3.3 B 3.1 B 3.1 B 3.3 B — — —
            Standard (Advertising) Mail Volume 80.3 B 80.9 B 79.5 B 84.0 B 81.8 B 81.8 B 98.4 B 103.5 B 102.5 B 100.9 B

      • Thank YOU for your work. But how sickening to face how our morally corrupt politicians of every stripe have sold us out again and again and again.

      • Really good video, Nicollette. You’ve done your research and your video and comments here are very informative about this corruption which is countrywide, as you’ve reported here. I had a view of a sort of the downsizing of the US Postal Service as I used to do some recruiting for them now some years ago in the early to mid 2000’s for mid-level management, and a large segment of our business with the USPS gradually wound down to almost nothing within the last 15 years. It was, at that time, unexplainable and startling and no one knew what to think about it, the managers were given no explanation from higher gov’t. People were simply scratching their heads and left wondering.

        Although email, Fedx and UPS play a part in this, Americans love their post office too. We count on these services and to think of them being so diminished or disappearing is troubling. As you mentioned your childhood memory of the Westport PO, many years earlier, I still remember that post office too. My childhood happened the 60’s in Westport, and I remember vividly the large brown sea sponges kept watered and at the tables and windows to moisten the stamps. Vivid memory of my weekly visits with my mom. It is a gorgeous building and was sad reading Dan’s updates on it’s demise. Can’t believe the new post office has been stuck in a back strip mall. Quite a message. Hope a better location is found.

  14. Went there once for lunch, heavy, greasy food, cave-like acoustics. I agree with Matthew, we need more casual places, especially with music like Bobby Q’s. Love their rooftop offerings during the summer months. Also for a place to go before or after the Levitt. Has anyone tried the Robarth Rathskellar?

  15. Dairy Queen was family oriented, for singles, and casual. Oh wait, what’s there now? Little Barn. That makes sense. 🙂 Could we put a Big Top in where 154 was?

  16. What shall I do with unused gift certificates? Let’s hope they’ll honor them via a reimbursement.

  17. Fascinating if depressing history, and great informational video from Nicolette. Any wonder why Congress has a 16% approval rating? Ugly.

    Minor note:
    The USPS has no official motto, despite the wonderful Farley Building quote from Herodotus about Xerxes’ couriers.

    Some of the quote’s history is here:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Postal_Service_creed

  18. Carol Anderson

    >