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Upper West Siders fond of the comforting (and, admittedly, a little greasy) food found at longtime local landmark Big Nick's Burger Joint and Pizza Joint may soon have to wave their waffle fries goodbye. Big Nick's, the family restaurant on Broadway and 77th Street that has been serving up diner fare for half a century, announced that it is struggling to stay open after a recent 50 percent rent increase. Owner Nick Imirziades said that he is currently in negotiations with the landlord to stay afloat. "I can pay the $40,000 per month I am paying now," he wrote on Big Nick's Facebook page. "I just can't pay $60,000. It is only 1,000 square feet (and you know how small my place is)!" Imirziades declined to comment further for the story, preferring to wait until negotiations with his landlord were complete. The announcement has sparked Internet and local outrage with comments like "Please don't go, Nick!" and pleas of starting an online petition. "I think it's horrible that Nick's might be closing," said Emily Easter, who lives in Fort George, but was having a slice of pizza at Nick's on her lunch break. "There's no respect for the neighborhood. What do we need, another Urban Outfitters?" Big Nick's is a remnant of an Upper West Side from another era. The atmosphere is cramped, a bit grimy and full of character-with walls plastered with news clippings and signs like "Now serving lime rickeys!" Regulars, many of whom have been coming to Nick's for decades, know to avoid the unkempt bathroom, and newcomers are often overwhelmed by the 27-page menu with a table of contents-serving everything from tuna pizza and avocado burgers to pages of Greek food and sandwiches. They even have a real New York attitude, with signs chastising customers for using laptops and a no-nonsense attitude toward serving food. They do have a soft side, usually dispensing balloons to their youngest customers. "I'm emotionally shocked, but can't say that I'm really surprised that they're closing," said John Goldman, 27, who grew up on the Upper West Side and now lives in Bushwick. "It's definitely not a place where everyone knows your name." Nick's fans say the gruffness is part of the old-school charm. Michael Singer, an Upper West Side resident who has been going to Big Nick's for over 40 years, said he cannot imagine a world without the Upper West Side fixture. He first had a Big Nick's burger when he was eight years old, back when it was called "Burger Joint," and has been hooked ever since. "It's gotten to the point that when I call to place my order, the staff instantly know what I want the moment I give them my name," Singer said. "This is a story of landlord greed, and obviously a huge part of me will be taken away if Burger Joint closes." It certainly looks like it might close. According to a real estate listing, the ground floor of 2175 Broadway, which includes Big Nick's, will be on the market come Feb. 1. RKF Realtor, which handles the property, did not have any information on the sale of the building. The person listed as the building owner, John Huber of Lophijo Realty Corp., refused comment, saying that he no longer does real estate in New York.

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