The Daily Star
---- — We wonder what’s going to happen to the fish.
Anyone who has spent any time in The Neptune Diner — and that includes just about everybody around this area — will have noticed the many unusual fish that swam in the two large aquariums that separated the 24-hour restaurant’s banquet and dining rooms.
The languid movements in the tanks belied the bustling atmosphere as the staff served customers who were able to choose from a dizzying array of menu items.
The fish, of course, aren’t really important. Of much more concern are the approximately 40 employees who lost their jobs when owner Paul Karabinis decided to close the iconic establishment after 28 years in business.
Moreover, we care that a little chunk of what it’s like to live in Oneonta or visit it has been chipped away. It’s fine if a national restaurant chain wants to put a franchise in our town or city. Nothing wrong with that at all if it helps the local economy and creates jobs.
But there was something intrinsically Oneonta about the Neptune.
It was a place you knew would be open after a movie … or a prom. In addition to the Neptune’s trademark Greek specialties, you could get a pastrami sandwich or a turkey dinner, a plate of blintzes or a ham and cheese omelet, a milk shake or a scotch and soda.
And let’s not even talk about missing the sumptuous desserts. It’s too painful to contemplate.
More often than not, you would run into someone you know … and maybe someone you used to know.
“My son and I have worked here 28 years — it’s time to move on,” Karabinis, 64, told The Daily Star on Sunday, citing 18-hour work days. “I’m really sorry to close it.”
The Neptune Diner was a major presence on state Route 23 off exit 15 of Interstate 88 and across from Southside Mall. Southside just won’t seem the same without it.
“They certainly have been an established part of the Oneonta scene,” town of Oneonta Supervisor Robert Wood said Sunday. “They’ll be missed.”
There’s a Denny’s just down the street that stays open 24 hours, and that’s all well and good for those who might need a late-night snack or a cup of coffee. But it won’t be like it was sitting in a booth or particularly around the counter at the Neptune where strangers became friends while commenting on what was showing on the overhead television screens.
We can hope that someone will buy the place and re-open a restaurant, but it probably won’t be enough like the Neptune.
Meanwhile, we wonder what’s going to happen to the fish.