People don’t want to come to the area. The cops scare people away. The protesters scare people away. It's basically a frozen zone.
Photo via Flickr user m01229
Welcome back to Restaurant Confessionals, where we talk to the unheard voices of the restaurant industry from both the front-of-house (FOH) and back-of-house (BOH) about what really goes on behind the scenes at your favorite establishments. In this installment, we hear from the general manager of a restaurant near Trump Tower in New York.
As soon as Donald Trump won the election, barricades immediately went up around Trump Tower. The restaurant I work at as a manager is only a block away. Even though he was running, my workplace never really thought about what would happen to the area if Trump won, and how it would affect the restaurant. So that whole first week right after was especially crazy because everything changed overnight.
From the first day Trump became President-elect, everything was so disorganized. My restaurant was never approached by security, or other officials, to discuss protocol or procedures for anything. Gates were suddenly set up at the end of the block and the whole street basically became flooded with cops. There's probably a good 20 to 30 of them here at a time, along with a 24-hour bomb squad. News trucks are also a constant presence and police dogs sniff out every vehicle that enters and leaves. They'll stop anyone at any time.
It wasn't just cars they started vetting, but any pedestrians coming and going, too. And that's when we heard a rumor about customers not being allowed onto the block. When my staff inquired with security about this, we were told it was true, and that someone from our restaurant would have to stand at the gate with the nightly reservation list. They would then have to personally escort customers to the restaurant after police cleared them with government issued ID.
Anyone working on the block also had to show ID at that time and prove their place of employment. Some of my staff passed through without any issues, but I had one employee who got stopped almost everyday. He was Bengali, and they'd stop him daily, so for a while he was always late to work. He would always come running in late when the rest of us were in our service meeting and tell us "I got stopped again!" They would ask him questions like what's his business in the area, where he's coming from and where he's heading. Sometimes they'd ask him for proof that he worked in the restaurant by a pay stub, name badge, or anything like that. So they definitely gave him a little bit of a tough time. That happening to him definitely surprised us because we know he's a good guy and we've never had issues with him. But now, security wanted to question him simply because of the way he looks.
All of the protests have also had a huge impact on our business. Honestly, I didn't vote, and never have in my life. My opinion is I don't like Trump, but I wouldn't protest. On any given night that has protestors gathering in front of Trump Tower, our restaurant doesn't have any customers. So we just close early and leave because we're not going to win against it.People don't want to come to the area. The cops scare people away. The protesters scare people away. It's basically a frozen zone.
That's also one of the reasons why our numbers are way down from last year. People don't want to come to the area. The amount of cops scare people away. The protesters scare people away. Customers can't drive here. They don't want to walk here. It's basically a frozen zone.
Now that business is much slower, it's definitely had an effect on my staff's wallets. I'll have to cut people really early, or if I know it's going to be a quiet day, I'll tell some of them not to come in at all. And this is a daily thing. You know, numbers just being down altogether, it hurts everyone. There's actually a bar on the street that's doing a petition right now to get rid of the barriers. They're going to each restaurant and business on the block to see if we can unite in figuring out how to get rid of them. They feel the police activity on our street is not necessary. We understand that maybe in front of Trump Tower it is, but we're on the next block over. I don't think anything will come from the petition, though, just like the protests. Whatever they're going to do, they're going to do. The police. The government. The Secret Service. Donald Trump. They have the ultimate power, so they're going to do whatever they want. They don't care about us.
Working so close to Trump Tower, we have to take things here day-by-day because every day is a new rumor. It's different for anyone who doesn't work around here. When they read the news or about some crazy new rumor, it doesn't have a direct effect on them like it does to our everyday lives. I hear rumors from my staff or others who work close by all the time. However, the one that concerns me the most is about Trump not wanting to live in the White House, and that he might want to stay in Trump Tower instead. When I heard that, I said, "That can't be true. You have to be at the White House." It's makes no sense—you can't run a country from your apartment in New York City. It's affected me in a big way because then we have to think about what's the big picture for the restaurant? If he's living nearby or visiting often, is it going to affect business? Are we going to lose our sales? Do I have to fire people? What's my daily life going in to work for myself? Is it going to be harder? One day, is it going to be "OK, no problem, pass on by," but then the next day is, "I'm sorry, but I need to see ID," and then we get patted down? Every day is something new. It changes your attitude, it changes your thought process.
There are times, I think, that maybe I would be better off looking for another job that's not near Trump Tower. You don't know what lunatic is going to come by and do something. There's always that fear of an anti-Trump person or just terrorists in general. I don't need that fear in my life just when I'm trying to go to work. It'd be nice to kind of be back to a normal life and not worry about all the cops and walking out the door to see to a bomb squad every day.
Trump hasn't even been officially inaugurated yet, but there's already no planning for the future. We can only figure it out as we go. We don't know what's happening. And everyone basically doesn't want him here. They want him to go to the White House and be out of our hair.
As told to Tae Yoon.