According to a story in the New York Post today, the redoubtable Lower East Side deli Katz's is being threatened with bad press and possible legal action by a (ahem) 35-year-old male model.
Said mannequin, Darren Gough, claims he was beaten up by Katz's roughnecks (whoever they might be—what? the ticket taker?) after he tried to leave without showing his payment ticket. According to him, "I resisted. One of them slammed my head against the door frame. We tussled out on the sidewalk. We fell over by the parking meter. [Then] someone came after me with a billy club [yelling], 'Nobody touches our security guards!'" He showed off his black eye for the Post photogs and filed a police report and is now considering his "legal options."
A little background for the uninitiated: Katz's has one of the most arcane payment systems in the Western World. Upon entering, you're handed a ticket—like the ones at old-style movie theatres, but somewhat longer. You go up to the long counter and every time you order an item, you hand the ticket to the counter person and he or she marks it in pencil with a price. Each subsequent helper adds a new amount to the total. When you're done eating, you proceed to the cashier, hand them your ticket, they ring you up and you pay. Then, and only then, you're allowed to leave.
Any decent New Yorker knows this drill. To flout it shows you're either not a New Yorker, are a stupid New Yorker, or possibly a drunk New Yorker.
It may be the Gough was the latter of the three. This is the key sentence of the Post account: "he went to the famed deli on East Houston Street early on Sunday to order a hot dog with onions after drinking with a buddy at the nearby Spring Lounge." AFTER DRINKING WITH A BUDDY. He claimed he waited for 15 minutes without getting his desired hot dog—a wait I have never endured in all my visits to Katz's. Perhaps he was too stewed to find the counter.
The Katz's worker claimed Gough was drunk, and anyone who's gotten a late night meal at the place knows it's more that possible to find plastered East Village and Lower East Side partiers noshing there on the weekend. And only a souse would lose his payment ticket. "I didn't have it. I didn't eat," he explained. Sorry. No one gets in Katz's without being handed a ticket. He lost it, dropped it, something.
Sorry, but no sympathy for "chisel-jawed" Mr. Gough. Katz's must be protected from any legal threat that might imperil its existence. There's only one Katz's. There are plenty of louts, even good-looking ones.