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UES Socialite Restaurant Under Fire for Allegedly Banning a Solo Female Diner at the Bar

Nello is being accused of the practice as part of a “crackdown on hookers”

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Exuberantly priced celebrity and socialite favorite Nello is under fire this week for more than its poorly reviewed Italian food or criminal contempt accusations. The Upper East Side restaurant has been flooded with nearly two dozen one-star Yelp reviews after a female branding executive accused it of not allowing women to dine alone at the bar — claiming that it was due to “a crackdown on hookers.”

Clementine Crawford, who Page Six identified as working at British marketing agency Finch & Partners, wrote an essay titled “The night I was mistaken for a call girl” on website Drugstore Culture, detailing the incident. According to Crawford, she is a regular at Nello and had dined at the bar alone for years when traveling to New York for work.

But recently, a server asked her to instead sit at a table, she alleges. When it happened on a second visit, she noticed that a man was allowed to eat by himself at the bar — but she was still banned.

Why, I wondered, was I suddenly being treated so frostily? Surely, in America of all places, the customer was still king – or, in this case, queen? After further interrogation, it transpired that the owner had ordered a crackdown on hookers: the free-range escorts who roamed the Upper East Side, hunting prey in his establishment.

Eventually, she got into “an explosive argument” over the rule with the restaurant’s owner. (She does not name him, but the current owner is Thomas Makkos.) He confirmed that she could not eat at a bar, she alleges. Crawford — who called herself a regular of the restaurant — writes that it was an “emotional slap in the face,” adding that it was yet another way that society still treats women differently from men.

So when doing an optics inventory on their patrons they treated the single woman in a patriarchal fashion: they automatically objectified, sexualised, put her (me) in a box – the treasure chest of pleasure. Would a man on a business trip, or one who routinely ate alone, have attracted the same attention and treatment? Well, no: clearly not, because, as I saw, they served him.

The story has blown up, and now, a slew of people have fled to the nearly 30-year-old restaurant’s Yelp page to declare that its treatment of women is “entirely unforgivable.”

A marketing person and other restaurant staffers declined to comment on behalf of the restaurant. Eater will update with any comment from the restaurant’s management.

Nello is known for its luxe scene, mediocre food, and ridiculous prices; pastas regularly cost $200, and in 2008, one man posted a receipt saying he spent $47,000 on a dinner for six. But that combination also means it’s a destination for monied business folk, celebrities, and other high-net-worth people who can treat it as “a private club of sorts.

The restaurant has been more tumultuous in the last few years. Eponymous partner Nello Balan, who’s credited with bringing in famous clientele, left the restaurant, leaving his partner Thomas Makkos with the business. Balan also was once one of the state’s most delinquent taxpayers, at one point owing more than $1 million. And the restaurant has been involved in a slew of lawsuits, including an accusation that Makkos owed a partner $1 million due to “widespread financial fraud.”


696 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10065 212-980-9099