Penn Station businesses fear slowdown if LIRR strikes
Restaurants, bars and other businesses near Penn Station are expecting to suffer a financial hit if LIRR workers strike on Sunday.
Managers of several eateries and bars told amNewYork that Long Island commuters and other LIRR riders make up a big part of their clientele and they're concerned about a strike's affect on the bottom line.
"It's kind of scary," Tim Ryan, assistant general manager at Loca, a cafe across from Madison Square Garden said Wednesday. "Hopefully they resolve it, I feel bad for a lot of the regulars."
Craig Hutson, the general manager of Pennsylvania 6, a popular Penn Plaza Bar, said the most frustrating part of the situation is playing the waiting game because he doesn't know if his strike contingency plans will be enough.
"There's not much that we can prepare," said he said. "We just have to roll with the punches and hope they come to an agreement."
Hutson said he's especially worried about losing lunch commuters, Penn 6's prime draw. "There's about a million commuters going through Penn everyday and a lot of them use the LIRR. That's a good amount of people a half a block from us that just won't be there," he said.
Tracks Bar and Grill, which is inside Penn Station and is filled with LIRR memorabilia and other Long Island regalia, and O'Brien said most of his customers are LIRR commuters. O'Brien said he has already started to reduce food orders and has warned employees that their schedules might change too.
"We're probably going to cut back on staffing, one less bartender, one less kitchen guy," he said.
Alicia Sheppard the owner of the Molly Wee Pub on 30th Street is a Long Island commuter herself along with five staff members. She said they are concerned about how her efficient the bar will be if push came to shove.
"Some of these people are married with kids, one car families. How are they supposed to get to work?" she asked. The 34th Street Partnership, the business improvement district that covers the area, said its members would create their own contingency plans. The BID promised to use its website to update New Yorkers on changes to businesses, such as closures or reduced hours.
Dan Pisark, the vice president of retail services for the BID, said it's "hard to predict" where the negotiations will go, though he noted that the organization added extra staff to the taxi waiting stand outside Penn Station during the 2005 subway and bus strike. One bar is taking serious steps to help its customers. Bob Baker, a manager for Blarney Rock Pub, said he is helping longtime regulars find motel rooms in New Jersey and that he will transport them into the city via chartered buses.
"We're a sanctuary and we understand how this will affect their lives," he said.
State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said the strike would cost New York $50 million a day in economic activity.
Cliff Zamel, the manager of Andrew's Coffee Shop on the corner of 35th Street and 7th Avenue, said he wished both sides had more compassion for the businesses and commuters. "It's the middle of summer, it's hot, this is not the time to be playing games with people," he said.
One midtown restaurant, however, sees a sliver of hope with the potential strike falling at the start of summer restaurant week. A spokeswoman for Nick & Stef's Steakhouse at Penn Plaza said the loss of its LIRR commuter group could be offset by the customers who come for the bargains.
It's not a longtime fix, though.
"Our projections haven't changed," she said. "If [the strike] goes a week longer we will look at it."