Cafes open near the Big Board

By Ashley Winchester

It isn’t easy getting around Wall St. these days. Although pedestrians continue to wind their way through Wall St. sidewalks, closed roads, concrete barriers and constant construction have created a maze for both businesses and visitors in the New York Stock Exchange area.

“It’s like Beirut out there or something with all the construction,” Pret A Manger general manager Cutter Cartier said. “There’s just not as many people coming through here (because of it).” Pret A Manger has seen a 10 to 15 percent drop in sales after 9/11, which is probably true for most area businesses, he said.

Kevin Rampe, president of the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., said last week that in October, a plan will be announced to reduce the street closings around the exchange and to add to the aesthetic improvements which started over the summer.

In conjunction with the plan and in an effort to soften the look of the neighborhood and attract more visitors, the Downtown Alliance has helped establish four sidewalk cafes at participating restaurants on Broad and Wall Sts. Outdoor seating is now available at Mangia and Vine on Wall St., and Pret A Manger on Broad St. Diners can help themselves to meals at these cafeteria-like eateries and move outside to enjoy the fall weather. Although these tables and chairs were installed late in the season—about two weeks ago—restaurant owners hope they will increase business by encouraging potential patrons to cross the street to eat outside.

“Some people don’t want to cross the street because of the construction which has caused a decline in sales,” Cartier said. “The tables are a positive thing, and have given more marketing for the restaurant. People see customers eating outside and come in to see what we have to offer… Thousands of jobs were lost in the area after 9/11 and with the economy the way it is there’s just not as many people coming through here. But the tables definitely help, even though it’s the end of the season in terms of people sitting outside.”

Pret A Manger’s five tables are consistently busy between noon and 3 p.m., when the restaurant does 80 percent of its sales, Cartier said. Mangia’s 10 tables have been similarly occupied, although assistant manager Ewa Osewska said she has not seen a significant increase in business.

“I haven’t noticed a change since the tables were introduced,” Osewska said. “Then again, business is constant. People have access from [the Trump Building] above, so there is a constant flow of customers. Generally the tables are nice, but no different really.”

Vine’s supervisor Justine Davis hasn’t been relying on the restaurant’s nine outdoor tables to draw in the crowds. Nearby construction on the narrow street discourages customers from eating outside, she said.

“Between allergies and construction workers talking and rallying nearby, it’s really not been a popular option,” Davis said. “We had to put up signs on the tables saying they were reserved for customers only. The construction workers were really the only ones using them.”

Starbucks and Bits, Bites and Baguettes, across the street from Mangia, until recently had two outdoor tables sponsored by the Downtown Alliance. Several days after they were installed, an anonymous complaint to the Downtown Alliance prompted their removal, B & Co. manager Nasser Rajbi said. Starbucks supervisor Chevonne Amsterdam said the tables, although nice, were being used mostly by Starbucks employees and not customers.

The Starbucks tables aren’t the only Downtown Alliance improvement to go missing in the past few weeks. Planters installed along Wall St. in late August have been removed and are being replaced by ones less difficult to knock over. The planters and the tables are part of Downtown Alliance’s pilot plan to beautify the area, in effect until November 15.

— Ashley Winchester

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