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Appetizing Icon Barney Greengrass’s Outdoor Dining Structure Destroyed in Suspected Arson Attack

“Looks like someone was trying to make smoked fish, I guess!” said owner Gary Greengrass

A man stands at the fish counter at Barney Greengrass
The inside of Barney Greengrass on the Upper West Side.
Bess Adler/Eater

The outdoor dining shed at Upper West Side institution Barney Greengrass was set aflame this morning, the West Side Rag reports. The outdoor structure at the Jewish delicatessen and appetizing shop, which has been at its location at 541 Amsterdam Avenue, near West 87th Street, since 1929, was damaged at around 5 a.m., according to the publication. The NYPD told West Side Rag that they believe the fire was “intentionally set.” No arrest had been made at the time of publication.

“All we know right now is that somebody torched the outdoor structure this morning,” Barney Greengrass owner Gary Greengrass told Eater. Greengrass nevertheless appeared to be in good spirits, joking that, “[It] looks like someone was trying to make smoked fish, I guess!”

Greengrass confirmed that no employees or customers were hurt by the fire. While he said the damage would not affect the business’s ability to fulfill orders ahead of a busy week for Passover, he shared that the outdoor dining structure has been helpful to keeping the business afloat during the pandemic. He estimates that the cost of repairs could be upwards of $20,000, though he’s waiting to hear back from a contractor about exact quotes. “Yes, it’s all replaceable,” he said. “But it’s more disconcerting of these times we live in.”

Although incidents of anti-Semitic attacks have been on the rise in the city, Greengrass says he doesn’t have any reason to believe at the moment that the damage to his restaurant was driven by anti-Semitism. It appears that there may also be a pattern of suspect arson attacks around the Upper West Side. On Twitter, Julia Vitullo-Martin, a local neighbor, tweeted, “An arsonist is setting fires on the UWS. This is the fourth that I know of this morning.”

According to the West Side Rag, the FDNY has identified five other arsonist attacks today. They include fires set at the 86th Street and Broadway subway station, the Broadway and West 70th Street subway station, the exterior of the building at 203 West 87th Street, an outdoor dining structure at Amsterdam and West 87th Street, and a trash fire at West 96th Street and Broadway.

When asked whether he had been made aware of any other restaurants on the Upper West Side lit aflame today, Greengrass said he had heard that the trash outside of Orwashers was also set on fire. Eater reached out to Orwashers for comment, but the Jewish bakery did not respond by the time of publication.

Over the course of the past two years, as outdoor dining sheds became prevalent across the boroughs, so, too were incidences of suspected arson. Last summer, the New York Times reported that a star sommelier, Caleb Ganzer, had been charged with setting the outdoor structures at Manhattan pasta spot Forsythia and controversial Prince Street Pizza alight. That same summer, Loulou, a Chelsea speakeasy, also suffered damages to its outdoor structure. Meanwhile, just last month, the lavish outdoor dining set-up — once valued at $300,000 — at Midtown’s Quality Bistro was also destroyed.

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