Allen, who also had restaurants on Broadway and in Paris, died Sunday (7 February) in Hampton, New Hampshire, according to Jason Woodruff, a former staffer for the Allen family of restaurants who spoke to the family.
An icon of Theatreland, Allen opened his first restaurant in 1965 just off Broadway, which soon became a haven for budding actors who would often be found waiting the tables between treading the boards.
In 1977 he opened his restaurant in the heart of Covent Garden, London. The restaurant found fame soon after opening, fondly dubbed ‘the West End’s canteen’ due to the fact that it drew in large numbers of theatregoers, actors, celebrities and even royalty, who flocked to the venue known for its classic American cuisine in a New York-style setting.
One of the longest running establishments in the West End, the restaurant has been used as a setting for novels, a location for photo shoots and film sets and a venue for live music. Notable patrons over the years at the London restaurant include Elizabeth Taylor, Sean Connery, Rock Hudson, Sir Ian McKellen and Jennifer Saunders.
Both Joe Allen restaurants became historic institutions either side of the North Atlantic and were the favoured haunt for many well-known faces including Al Pacino and Dame Judi Dench, particularly as Joe Allen retained a no photograph policy to ensure the privacy of its most illustrious and regular guests. As guests entered the restaurant they were greeted by walls plastered with posters from Broadway flops; what began as an inside joke became a theatre tradition.
Business partners and restaurateurs Tim Healy and Lawrence Hartley, who took over the running of the London site in 2012, paid tribute to Allen, saying he would be sorely missed
They said: “Joe was such an unassuming, generous man and he knew bars and restaurants through and through, he would always be sat at the worst table at Joe’s to leave the best ones to customers, that’s how he was.
"He will be sorely missed by all of us; we raise a glass to him."
Restaurateur Jeremy King, who first met business partner Chris Corbin while working at Joe Allen, also paid tribute.
Writing on Twitter, he said: "Joe Allen - one of my restauranteur heroes to whom I owe so much. It's a sad day…"