New York City restaurants are getting ready in case Election Day comes served with a side of civil unrest.
As retail shops from the Gucci boutique in Soho to the Macy’s flagship on Herald Square board up their storefronts in case of riots, restaurants across Manhattan say they aren’t fooling around, either.
Patsy’s Italian — the 75-year-old Neapolitan eatery at 236 W. 56th St. that was famously a favorite of Frank Sinatra — will be closed on Election Day “for security reasons,” said Sal Scognamillo, the restaurant’s third-generation chef/owner.
Scognamillo boarded up the eatery on Monday and also beefed up security — hiring two ex-NYPD armed guards for Election Day and Wednesday, when he plans to reopen. However, he says he will be “monitoring the climate to see how it goes. We hope to reopen for dinner on Wednesday but will play it by ear.”
In the case of restaurants, the New York Police Department has warned that outdoor tables and chairs that lately have become ubiquitous on sidewalks could be weaponized by riled-up crowds. The advisory was addressed to Manhattan eateries south of 59th Street, but Avra Madison Estiatorio, the splashy fine dining Greek eatery at 14 East 60th St., says it will have extra security on site, anyway.
“We will be able to board up the restaurant quickly if rioting starts from either side,” said Avra’s owner, the veteran restaurateur and real-estate mogul Marc Packer.
Madison Square Garden-owned Tao Group — which kept eight of its many New York City restaurants open during the pandemic — will likewise close all but one of its restaurants on Tuesday. Tao Downtown will be open for delivery only “as we expect people will be home watching the election and may want food delivered,” Tao Group co-owner Noah Tepperberg told Side Dish.
In addition to worrying about the windows, some restaurants have been busy bolting safes to their venues’ floors — despite the fact that the lock boxes typically are back-breakingly heavy, said restaurant consultant Rick Camac.
“It has happened,” Camac said. “Four guys will break in and just walk out with a safe that weighs hundreds of pounds unless it is bolted to the cement floor.”
In an Oct. 22 letter to business owners and managers south of 59th Street, NYPD assistant chief Stephen J. Hughes warned that “demonstrations, rallies, and/or protests” are likely, and asked business owners to move or secure street items including furniture, trash cans, dumpsters, small planters, and “any non-fastened miscellaneous items in front of stores or buildings.”
Downtown in TriBeCa, some developers are even “bullet proofing” their windows — to make sure protesters won’t be able to smash them, which is what happened over the summer, Camac said, citing the case of one developer on Duane Street.
“People are prepared because of what happened over the summer, even though those riots feel like years ago,” Camac said. “We have to do our own sanitation and hire our own security guards. It doesn’t seem like we have enough police.”
An NYPD spokesperson declined to comment beyond the department’s written advisory.
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