New York City restaurant owners already struggling with limited business are now facing another issue: rats.
With indoor dining put on hold indefinitely due to COVID-19, outdoor dining is the only other option, aside from takeout and delivery, restaurant owners like Giacomo Romano have to keep their business afloat. But the owner of Ciccio, an Italian restaurant in SoHo, says the sanitation of a nearby park is contributing to a recurring problem of rats.
Father Fagan Park is small and inviting to skateboarders and people who want to relax outdoors, but it's also attracting huge rats. Romano says he has appealed to city leaders for help.
"There are a lot of new holes in the ground cover by the plants," Romana wrote to NBC New York. "Last night, a customer had a baby rat running on his shoe and I let you just imagine his reaction."
One parkgoer said he had seen a number of rats go from one spot to another as he sat on the park bench.
Romano, who has been in business in Lower Manhattan for seven years, says he agrees with the city and Gov. Andrew Cuomo's decision to postpone indoor dining, but officials need to do something about the outdoors. He says there's only one trash can for the entire park and people continue to throw garbage in the park.
NBC New York previously reported on these rats in late 2018, but their timing couldn't be worse now for business owners. Pasquale Giacobbe just reopened his barbershop on the same street as Romano last week after nearly four months, and he's already fed up with the rodents.
"I already don’t have the help from the state, no loans from nobody. At least they can come do something, for all the tax we pay," Giacobbe said.
NBC New York has reached out to the city for answers but for now, the rats may be part of some people's dining experience.