Earlier this month, a creative design executive from London wrote in her blog about a terrible experience at a high-end Italian restaurant in New York City. The blogger, Clementine Crawford, travels to New York multiple times a year for work and she has been a regular at this restaurant, Nello, for years. She might not be after her most recent experience though.
Crawford explains in her blog post that she walked into the restaurant recently and went to her usual spot at the bar for a quick dinner. Before she could get to a stool, a waiter she knew approached her and hesitantly told her that she had to sit at a table, rather than the bar. She was tired and didn’t want to make a fuss, so she sat at a table. A few nights later, she returned to the restaurant and again was told she would need to sit at a table.
This time, she asked why. She wrote: “I asked what was going on and was told that now nobody was able to eat at the bar. Company policy.”
But it wasn’t “nobody.” It was only women.
She figured that out when a man walked in and sat at the bar.
She describes the scene: “a gentleman walked in – a regular, like me – and was seated on a stool at the bar. As the evening unfolded, I watched with great interest and gathering fury as they poured him his dirty martini; brought him his breadsticks; adjusted his white linen; dished up his spaghetti; added his fresh parmesan and black pepper to boot; chatted amiably to him over the counter; and rounded off his evening with a limoncello.”
She wasn’t sure what to make of it. Why was this high-end exclusive restaurant that caters to celebrities and the rich and powerful discriminating against women?
So, she asked the waiter what was going on and he finally gave up the ghost: it was because of the hookers.
Apparently the owner of the restaurant was tired of high-priced escorts hanging out the bar, fishing for high-end customers.
Crawford was obviously angry. Why was she a casualty in the owner’s war against prostitution? The owner refused to explain and Crawford was left to ponder why all women were being discriminated against because of the actions of a few.
It turns out, this might be a larger issue in New York. I recently had a conversation with a (male) partner in a large Chicago law firm who also travels to New York regularly and like Crawford, had his usual spot for a late meal after he is done working. Like Crawford, it’s an upscale place and like Crawford, he prefers to sit at the bar. On a recent trip, he had finished dinner quite late, around 1am, and was enjoying a cocktail when a woman sat down next to him. The bartender, who knew the lawyer as a regular, advised him to pay his tab and leave. Confused, but tired, he paid and left.
The next night, he returned and asked the bartender why he advised him to leave and the bartender explained that the woman was an escort and he didn’t want the lawyer to have to deal with her. The bartender explained that since the demise of Craigslist escort listings and Backpage.com, a site notorious for advertising escort services, high-end bars and restaurants have been flooded with women of the night trolling for johns.
Well, this was at least a reason why the owner of Nello refused to let Clementine Crawford sit at the bar, but it was pretty terrible reason. Women should obviously not be discriminated against because the hookers have moved in. If anything, a owner should WANT women at the bar, possibly scaring off the escorts.
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