There's an ongoing food fight over outdoor seating in one of Manhattan's most affluent neighborhoods.
Residents living along Billionaires Row, a stretch of 57th Street in midtown lined with ultra-luxury residential skyscrapers, are taking issue with the seating arrangement outside at least two pandemic-ravaged restaurants.
Stathis Antonakopoulos owns one of those eateries, the Carnegie Diner and Café. He said outdoor dining is the only reason his restaurant was able to survive the pandemic. But now his landlord at the swanky coop above wants the tables gone — or else.
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"I believe they think because celebrities live in this building, they have an entitlement of who’s supposed to do what, you know. We’re not doing anything illegal," Antonakopoulos said.
The city extended its Open Streets program indefinitely, allowing the Carnegie Diner and Café to continue giving customers a view of Carnegie Hall across the street. However, an attorney representing the Osborne — the building where the restaurant is found on the first floor — says that “there are tables everywhere, food and people are outside until later than 1:00 a.m., there are reports of crowds, people sleeping outside maybe after getting inebriated at the bar.“
The attorney representing the coop says the outdoor tables are a nuisance, calling it a three-ring circus that stays loud well after midnight.
He said the lease agreement signed pre-COVID is clear: The sidewalk cannot be used for dining. They agreed to be flexible during the pandemic, but now they want the rules to be followed.
"The losses that we suffered during the pandemic, they’re not gonna go away after six months," said Antonakopoulos. "It’s gonna take us three years, four years to survive.”
It’s not just Carnegie Diner affected — it’s all the restaurants and businesses within the building. They are all subtenants and pay rent to a middle man known as 57th and 7th Associates, which is now in a fierce legal battle with the Osborne that has left small business owners caught in the middle.
"We feel like a pawn in a chess game that we have no control," said Antonakopoulos.
An attorney for 57th and 7th Associates did not return requests for comment. Ultimately a judge will decide what becomes of the outdoor dining at the location.