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Unions Kill NYC’s Cafe Des Artistes

From the union loving New York Times:

Downturn Catches Up to Cafe Frozen in Time


August 31, 2009

No one got the chance to say goodbye to Café des Artistes, the storied New York City restaurant that served up Old World fare under the gaze of the painted nubile nudes that perkily graced its walls.

The restaurant had closed on Aug. 9 for a month-long vacation and was to reopen Sept. 14. But on Friday, facing steady losses and a union lawsuit, its owners made what they described as a wrenching decision to close the landmark cafe on West 67th Street for good.

“It’s a very sad day for us,” said Jenifer Lang, whose husband, George Lang, has owned the restaurant since 1975. “It’s a death in the family.”

It was also the death of an intrinsic part of old New York. Countless couples got engaged in the glow of the restaurant’s dim, romantic lighting…

Mrs. Lang, 58, said that the restaurant’s business had been hurt by the economic crash but that its problems ran deeper. Café des Artistes was unionized, and she said the restaurant paid about $250,000 a year to cover its employees’ health and pension benefits, an amount she said the restaurant struggled to cover. Mrs. Lang also said the couple, whose home is half a block from the restaurant, put in $2 million of their own money to keep it running over the last 10 years.

“It makes it difficult to run a restaurant most of the time,” Mrs. Lang said of the union benefits. “When the economy is down, it makes it impossible.”

The final straw, Mrs. Lang said, was a lawsuit recently filed against the restaurant by the union demanding past benefit assessments.

Bill Granfield, president of Local 100 of Unite Here, the union representing the cafe’s 50-odd employees, said the restaurant had fallen behind on its payments for medical insurance and welfare funds, forcing the union to demand payment in court. He also said workers in 2003 took a pay cut and agreed to switch to a cheaper medical plan to ease the restaurant’s financial pressures…

The Café des Artistes sits in the lobby of Hotel des Artistes, a part Gothic, part Tudor revival co-op building designed by George Mort Pollard that opened as artists’ studios in 1916; the restaurant opened a year later. Howard Chandler Christy painted its walls in the ’30s, according to Mr. Lang’s memoir, “Nobody Knows the Truffles I’ve Seen,” creating 36 nudes, including one man, speculated to have been modeled after Buster Crabbe.

It is unclear what will become of the space, or the murals, all of which belong to Hotel des Artistes, Mrs. Lang said…

Through its windows on Sunday, the restaurant was already emanating an abandoned air. Sunlight filtered in weakly, catching dust particles hanging midair. Faint traces of dust lined the stilled ceiling fan, and the leaves of the abundant potted plants had begun to wilt.

It was only the naked nymphs, with their glowing skin and warm eyes, that seemed able to stay suspended in time.

The Times neglects to mention it, but like other ‘hotel/apartment’ restaurants of its time, the Cafe Des Artistes was originally built to service the occupants of the Hotel Des Artistes.

(As the article notes, it was a hotel/apartment built as artists studios, with floor to ceiling windows, which made them ideal for painters.)

Early apartments had no kitchens. So most had their own restaurants, which could send up meals in dumbwaiters for their tenants. Or  the tenants could eat in the dining room.

Thus, the closing of the Cafe Artistes severs another connection to a distant, perhaps more gracious way of life.

But what a triumph for the union!

This article was posted by Steve on Monday, August 31st, 2009. Comments are currently closed.

13 Responses to “Unions Kill NYC’s Cafe Des Artistes”

  1. proreason says:

    Should the march to fascism continue, it’s inevitable the unholy alliances that make it possible will turn on each other. Like Madame Thatcher said, there is only so much money out there, so as one batch of criminals drains the resources of responsible citizens, they will inevitably turn their attention to the cesspools of their allies.

    I’m assuming that the owners of Le Cafe Des Artistes are knee-jerk liberals. If so, they got what they deserve…as did the greedy snakes in the Union.

    The only parties left standing as the statists build the moats around their thrones are the statists themselves and their sychopahants that cling precariously to favor. 99.99% of the people live like serfs.

    That’s what its all about, Alfie.

    • MinnesotaRush says:

      Well said, PR .. well said! Representative, as well, of some longstanding thoughts and sentiments I personally have for most of those unions and their bosses.

      Why is it the union bigshots are always plus size guys who smoke great cigars and drive big, fancy cars? Just wonderin’, ya know.

  2. BillK says:

    As with Mercury Marine in Wisconsin and, well, most every other news story involving labor unions has shown, they would much rather their members be unemployed.

    It doesn’t hurt the union leaders one bit, and the rank and file have been brainwashed to believe their unemployment is due to the greedy business owners rather than that of the union leaders, who invariably get kicked upstairs to union headquarters and a six figure salary after the business closes for helping to “strengthen the union.”

    I’ve seen it time and time again since at least the mid-1980s.

  3. Liberals Demise says:

    Ah So ……….. The Union of Disunion!

  4. Anad says:

    Ummm. Your bias is showing!
    Re-read the NYT article. It says the restaurant could no longer pay its bills. Among them, the owners had promised to help pay for health coverage for their employees, like most employers in the USA do. It’s a shame when any business closes, but all businesses, unionized or not, go out of business when they can’t pay their bills.

    • proreason says:

      What bias, exactly, is showing?

      GMAC and Chrysler also promised to pay their bills.

      Perhaps the bias that is showing is the one against a single stakeholder in an enterprise demanding that all benefits accrue to itself, regardless of the impact on the viability of the enterprise.

      Or in simpler language, you know, it’s a bias against sawing off the branch of the tree you are standing on.

      Or even simpler, it’s a bias against fools.

    • Liberals Demise says:

      Our Bias is showing?

      I beg to differ ……… GM and Chrysler are only the tip of the gubbamint step in to bail out union companies that were too big to fail.
      Unions are leeches and care not one iota about the “rank and file”. I know all to well as I was one of the “bros” until reverse discrimination reared its’ ugly head and I lost my job to it. They sure looked out for me alright!

    • VMAN says:

      Unreasonable demands by unions are not bills but extortion.

  5. caligirl9 says:

    Unions are like cancer. Eventually they kill their hosts …

  6. Colonel1961 says:

    When a union demands more of a business than it can support and remain viable, they are guilty of extortion. People who can’t see that are tools of the left or naive idealists. Either way, they serve no purpose in a productive society; in fact the opposite – they contribute to its downfall…

    I feel sorry for the owners who were forced to invest additional monies of their own to keep these ingrates employed and the union thugs paid off.

    Once again, another reason that I’ll never hire an employee. One of my consulting firms has plenty of work and could easily take on a junior level employee to train and send down the road to a very fine career, but there is no way in hell that I (we) will jump through the grotesque hoops required to hire, maintain – and God forbid – perhaps have to fire one. And the sad part is there is some fine, ambitious, young person out there who would benefit tremendously. But the villain is not me (us) it’s our imperious Federal government (and state, too) that make growth a pain in the rear.

    Reducing most folks back to serfs is the goal. They’ll have to come through me, though, to make it happen…

    • DGA says:

      Exactly Colonel, I’ll only take subcontractors, never employees. The federal government has made it too difficult to hire small amounts of employees, the paperwork alone sends you running to yet more accountants, or try to do it yourself and get no real work actually done. The money saved is better put into performance bonuses for the subs anyway.

  7. bousquem says:

    The union seemed to be greedy enough that now a bunch of their workers are now out of jobs. That is real great work the union did there, they push so much and claim to protect their members but now 50 odd people are going to be joining the unemployment lines and living off the goverment.

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