BY ALBERT AMATEAU | Amnon Kehati, a partner in Sidewalk Cafe on Avenue A for more than 30 years, died suddenly of cardiac arrest on Thurs., Feb. 19. He was 64.
He was stricken on the sidewalk, beside his car parked on Ninth Ave. in Midtown, near another restaurant that he owned, said his daughter, Helah. He had returned two weeks earlier from Israel where he attended the funeral of his mother, Batya Kehati, 92, his daughter said.
In addition to Sidewalk at 94 Avenue A, at E. Sixth St., which he ran with his partner, Pini Milstein, Amnon Kehati had other restaurant interests, the latest being Markburger, at 33 St. Mark’s Place, which opened last March, Helah said. One of the fiberglass Swiss cows that dotted the city about 15 years ago is now mounted on the roof of Markburger.
Amnon, with Avi Camchi, a friend of 43 years, opened Thalia, a restaurant at 829 Eighth Ave. at W. 50th St. in 1999. Two years ago, Amnon acquired Annabel, a restaurant at 809 Ninth Ave., where he was just before he died.
“Restaurants are a way of life rather than a business,” his daughter said. “People would say that he shouldn’t be working so hard, but it wasn’t work to him.”
Amnon also had a heating/ventilation/air conditioning service.
“He was a mechanical engineer,” Helah noted.
Milstein, his longtime partner, recalled that he and Amnon opened a seafood restaurant, Pisces, at 95 Avenue A across from Sidewalk in the mid-1990s.
“The Times called us ‘Le Bernardin of the East Village,’ ” he said, referring to a renowned Midtown restaurant. “People came from all over. Mayor Koch came, Bill Murray of ‘Saturday Night Live’ would come. But then 9/11 happened, people stopped coming, and we sold the place,” Milstein said.
“I’ve known Amnon for 50 years, since I was 14 years old in Haifa,” Milstein said. “I introduced him to his wife, Lucy. I came to the States around 1977. They came in 1979.”
Amnon ran a restaurant on Avenue A with two partners for less than a year before he asked his friend Milstein to buy them out in 1984.
“We redesigned the place and did a lot of the work by hand,” said Milstein of what would become Sidewalk. “It was still a rough neighborhood then. I used to find people who OD’d in the bathroom, so I put black light in so they couldn’t see their veins to shoot up,” he recalled. “Back then it was only us and 7A, a restaurant a block away.”
Sidewalk became known as “a music scene” that played the latest rock ’n’ roll on the sound system.
“Amnon’s wife, Lucy, was able to get CDs for us to play,” Milstein said.
Sidewalk also has a music room in the back with an open mic on Mondays.
“It’s the oldest continuously open mic in the city,” Milstein said.
“I was stunned when somebody called and told me Amnon died,” Milstein said.
“He was well loved in the community,” said Robert Perl, a neighborhood realtor.
In addition to Amnon’s daughter, he is survived by his wife, Lucy, and son, Yotam.