Sunday, October 21, 2012
The iconic River Café on the Brooklyn waterfront in DUMBO — famous for its floating-barge dining room that offers sweeping views of lower Manhattan — discriminates against Jews dressed in religious garb by requiring them to pay a minimum of $25 per person to sit at the bar, according to one current and one former employee.
The reservationists — who stand at the entrance to the popular wedding venue and tourist destination — are instructed to use code words to alert the maitre d’ if anyone wearing a yarmulke, “religious hat” or “strings” asks to be seated at the scenic bar, the workers say.
“There are several notes in a book that the reservationists use,” said a current employee at the restaurant, which opened in 1977. The book is kept at the greeting stand. New notes are added periodically by management, and employees are expected to read it before every shift, staffers said.
“The book says that if two religious Jews come in, we call ahead to the maitre d’ and say, ‘Is there space for two at the water bar?’ — in which case a minimum of $25 will be enforced that is just for Jews wearing yarmulkes or any sort of religious hat,” a staffer said. “The terminology in the book is ‘special hat’ or ‘religious hat.’ At the bar, the $25 minimum is only enforced for Jews.”
Restaurant officials denied the claim.
“The $25 minimum applies to everyone,” said Teddy Dearie, assistant manager at The River Café. “If it wasn’t applied, that is just someone not doing their job. The phrase ‘water bar’ I’ve never heard before. That phrase, or any deviation from the policy that’s been in place for several years, is not condoned by the restaurant and is indicative of an individual not performing the duties for which they have been hired.”
Images of the reservation book were provided to The Post to back up the employees’ claims.
“If they look as if they will only order water (not that we stereotype or anything) mention the minimum right away,” one note says. “If they ask for the bar and there is room, tell them there is a minimum at the bar as well.”
Another note reads: We “have decided that when people come in for the bar and are A. wearing sweat pants and B. religious top hats and strings, you must say for A. gym bar and for B. water bar. Thanks.”
On Thursday evening, The Post sent a Jewish couple to the bar. The husband, wearing a yarmulke, and the wife, dressed in a simple long skirt, were told the bar was full.
They were told they could sit on the empty terrace and pay a $25-per- person minimum.
Five minutes later, two Post reporters, wearing no religious garb, were seated on the terrace and were not required to pay a minimum. The bill for a coffee and a gin-and-tonic totaled $18.51.
The River Café — a non-kosher eatery famous for its $100 three-course prix-fixe menu featuring lobster, foie gras and rack of lamb — has become a popular date spot with Orthodox Jews, who are required by their religion to choose public places for dates.
Current and former employees said these couples come for the view and non-alcoholic beverages, and are frowned upon because they take up seats and don’t spend enough money.
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