Opening a restaurant in a hotel comes with a lot of advantages, including a lower start up cost and built in clientele. But oftentimes, it also comes with a hotel union. A union, and more specifically the Local 6, was blamed for putting Cafe des Artistes out of business, for thwarting the negotiations between Dean Poll and the city for Tavern on the Green, and while they serve a purpose for the workers, to be sure, they can be a headache for the operators. Take this story from a diner who had lunch this Monday at Geoffrey Zakarian's new restaurant The National, within the Benjamin Hotel:
I was having lunch at with a friend today at The National restaurant when right in the middle of their lunch rush 12:45 pm something I have never seen before in my 50 years as a New Yorker happened. Thugs with video cameras, dressed in trench coats and wearing fedoras came bursting in and demanded that the staff stop waiting on the tables. At first I thought we some how were involved in a movie that was filming but then a manager came over and apologized. He explained that it was "the hotel union" and that they were pulling everyone to stage a protest.
The union thugs kept antagonizing the managers, taunting them as they tried to keep a sense of normalcy to the busy lunch. I thought one of them was going to fly a lefty into one thugs chin after he threw a shoulder into him as he was carrying plates to a table. They kept taunting, saying things like "I hope you're making good tips" and screaming obscenities at the managers, telling staff that they had to stop what they were doing or they would loose their jobs.What did the hotel do to deserve the protest? Restaurant reps referred us to the hotel, which has yet to respond.
Despite this crazy chaos, the managers were very nice and the food was good. We kept our lunch brief and decided to catch up elsewhere in a calmer environment, we walked out into the hotel lobby (my friend was staying in the hotel) only to see them protesting in the lobby of this luxury hotel. It truly was a scene out of the movies. I haven't been in the restaurant business for over 25 years in this city, I remember the mafia that ran the Local 6 back in the day, this reminded me of them. I can't imagine what union would take such harmful action on a place of business, especially right before the holidays.
Local 6 protesting Tavern on the Green [NYHTC]