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Oct 22, 2012

Jews Discriminated Against In Brooklyn

The big news of the day is the NY Post article that discovered discrimination against Orthodox Jews in a cafe in Brooklyn. All the frum news sites have been posting about the article.

According to the expose, this popular cafe, called The River Cafe, has discovered that it is a popular spot for shidduch dates. The only problem with this is that they also realized that the Orthodox Jews on these dates spend very little money - meaning they are taking up spots in the cafe but the cafe is making almost no money off them, and they can't get paying customers in their place.

The solution they came up with, which they deny, is to charge a $25 minimum fee to anyone appearing to be Orthodox Jewish (e.g. if they came with a religious top hat and strings), and they devised an intricate set of codes for passing along the message when letting them in as to how much they should be charged.

The Orthodox Jews who go there are obviously only going to be buying drinks, as the food is not kosher, but it seems they don't even really spend much on drinks. It seems, from the article, that these Jews pretty much only get water. So, they really are taking advantage of an expensive location and preventing the patrons from making money with other customers.

Discrimination is always bad. The cafe should perhaps set a minimum that applies to everyone (they claim the minimum does, but the expose showed that it is only enforced for the religious Jews, along with when the Jews would be seated), even with the knowledge that most people won't have an issue with it knowing that if they are about to spend $70-$100 on dinner, they will definitely pass the minimum. As long as it applies equally to everyone it is legitimate - not everyone will be eating dinner or spending a lot of money.

And people going on shidduch dates should be more careful about not taking advantage of others, whether it is the River Cafe or whether it is sitting in a hotel lobby nursing one Diet Sprite for 4 or 5 hours.

The article:
It’s unortho-docks!
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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  1. If their real aim was legitimate, a uniform-for-all minimum restaurant tab would have been attempted, not this phony baloney.

  2. The principle here should be: Think "reasonable". Is it reasonable for people (whether Orthodox Jews or people doing work on a laptop for hours) to take up space in a crowded restaurant ordering little or nothing? No, it's not. Is it reasonable for a restaurant to ask such people to place a minimum order or leave to make room for other customers? Yes. Is it reasonable to make more allowance for such customers when the restaurant is less crowded? Yes. Is it reasonable for a restaurant to refuse service to someone based on appearance? This is a gray area - sometimes yes, sometimes no. Is it reasonable for a restaurant to institute a policy that charges people different amounts based on appearance? Absolutely not!

  3. When did marit ayin go out of fashion?

  4. marit ayin for what? they dont even appear to be doing anything wrong or technically wrong, just not buying enough to keep the patrons happy...

    1. I think she means religious Jews going into or sitting in a non-kosher restaurant at all, which is a potential marit ayin problem itself.


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