The owner of the Milk Street Cafe, a big upscale food court that opened in June on Wall Street, has laid off a quarter of his staff, and he predicts he'll go out of business soon. Though he was doing well and on track to break even on his investment next month, the NYPD's barricades on Wall Street— put in place to keep out Occupy Wall Street protesters—have been killing him. Owner Marc Epstein tells us he's had to lay off over 20 employees, and his business is off 30% because Wall Street is a dead zone. Reached by phone today, Epstein says:I've been to the Milk Street Cafe at Wall Street (in Boston as well) and it is an awesome place to eat. It is the largest kosher restaurant I've ever seen, and its food court layout allows it to serve both dairy foods (in the front) and meat (in the back), with separate kitchens that are not obvious. The selection of food is dizzying and I was looking forward to visiting it again.
I have no opinion about the protesters' point of view. These barriers are killing my business, and everyone—the police, the protesters, the Mayor—has to understand the ramifications. The police decided the way to solve this was to put up these barricades, and I've approached every white shirt police officer here and said, "You are killing my business!" They say they're just following orders.
These barricades have created a siege down here on Wall Street that makes people not come here. I opened in June and hired 100 people and thought that was something good. I borrowed money, and the Trump organization took a risk with a little guy from Boston and signed the lease with me, and the bank loaned me money, and now I feel like a fool. I took such a risk here, and I'm collateral damage. My staff is collateral damage for other people's battles.
But indeed, the last time I was there the barricades were up and walking up and down Wall Street was a frustrating experience. Barely two columns of people, going opposite directions, could squeeze past each other while the major part of the street is empty most of the time.
So a new small business owner is threatened by the idealists at OWS. Nice going, guys.