I had an hour to kill tonight before I met a friend for dinner. After wandering around for a few blocks, I found myself on 56th Street standing in front of Patsy's restaurant. I love Patsy's. Because it's stuck it out for 63 years, because it's family owned, because there's only one, and because Frank Sinatra used to hang out there. What better way to spend my spare hour than at Patsy's bar enjoying a drink, just as Frank had enjoyed so many.
The bar is just to the right when you come in. I took a seat and ordered a Manhattan. As I sipped, I read the papers, browsed through the menu and soaked in the atmosphere. A cheesy metal statue of Frankie perched on the bar looked on. I was there for about a half hour and had just paid my check, when I experienced the rudest, strangest behavior I've encountered in a New York restaurant in years. The maitre d', a man with dark, slicked-back hair and a shit-eating grin, tapped me on the shoulder and...well, I'll just relate the exchange verbatim. Just keep in mind that there are six stools at the bar and only two of them were occupied, and that the restaurant was maybe a third full.
Maitre d': Excuse me, are you waiting for someone?
Maitre'd: Oh, you're not waiting for something to have dinner with?
Me: No. Just having a drink at the bar.
Maitre d': Because people don't really drink at the bar.
Me: People don't drink at the bar?
Maitre d': Not really. We don't encourage it.
Me: Is it not allowed?
Maitre d': No, I'm not throwing you out or anything. We just don't encourage it.
With this, Mr. Manners (whose name, I learn from a picture on the Patsy's website, is Frank DiCola) withdrew. I looked at the only other person at the bar, a woman, to see if I had heard correctly. She had overheard the entire exchange. Now, I am not kidding you when I say she was agape. Her mouth was actually open. She just stared, aghast. It was like a stage reaction. So I wasn't alone in being stunned.
Now, think about it. In a restaurant half empty, at a bar half empty, a patron's presence was actively, aggressively discouraged by the management. I wasn't loitering. I wasn't pissing on their potted plants. I was drinking a $10 drink. I would have understood it (a little) if the place was packed and they needed the bar stools for patrons who were waiting for tables. This was not the case. Let me also point out that I was suitably dressed in a suit and tie and and been as quiet as a mouse the whole time.
Is this good business anywhere? Does such behavior make sense by any measure? Two minutes after this charm assault I gathered my papers (and my tip) and pointed exited. I wish Patsy's well. I hope it survives another 63 years. And that is why I also hope it experiences a change in front-of-the-house personnel. A suggestion: Frank would make a great beat cop; you know, tap of the night stick and "Move it along, buddy."