Lillian’s Restaurant, a fixture in downtown Saratoga Springs for more than four decades, will close at the end of the year.
Ray Morris, who opened the facility in January 1974, announced Monday that he is selling the four-story building at 408 Broadway. The new owner is expected to use the building for retail and office space. Morris couldn’t be reached for comment, but an employee at the restaurant confirmed it would be closing.
Morris named his restaurant after Victorian-era actress and Saratoga Springs resident Lillian Russell. According to the restaurant’s website, it specializes in “quality ingredients and courteous service” and its menu is known for its steaks, fresh seafood, pasta and vegetarian dishes.
News of the restaurant’s closing came as a big surprise to regular customers, including Susan L. Farnsworth, media consultant and special event planner for the Saratoga Springs Downtown Business Association. Farnsworth, who is moving outside the area, was honored with a retirement party at Lillian’s last week.
“We had a great time and no one had any idea that he was closing,” she said. “Ray’s been such a big part of downtown Saratoga for so long. I hope he stays involved.”
Farnsworth said the SSDBA held its annual Christmas party at Lillian’s every year.
“We rotated our meetings to different places, but we always had our holiday party at Lillian’s,” she said. “He was always so generous, donating the food and space. I think we’re all in shock. I loved Lillian’s. It’s been a fixture in downtown Saratoga for years, and to me it was just a beautiful place. I’ve been going there since it opened, and the atmosphere was great. It’s really going to be missed.”
Lillian’s offered a variety of dining spaces, including a spacious Victorian dining room, the Diamond Jim Brady Room and a summer patio.
Russell lived from 1861-1922 and was billed as “The English Ballad Singer.” She was a star on Broadway during the Gilded Age, and spent many of her summers in Saratoga Springs with a number of memorable characters from Saratoga’s past, including American businessman, financier and philanthropist Diamond Jim Brady.