NYC bars and restaurants increase security as crime, homelessness

The nights are dark and full of fear for already COVID-battered restaurant owners, who are struggling to stay afloat or open new venues.

That’s because runaway crime and rampant homelessness are forcing them to close early or spend extra money on security to keep their patrons safe, according to interviews with several large Apple restaurants.

Richie Romero, a veteran restaurateur and nightclub impresario, told Side Dish that he was forced to have a security guard at his Lower East Side spot Jazzy’s Pizza until 4 a.m. on weekends.

“Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays I’m crowded, but I have to close early at 11 a.m. during the week because people are afraid to go out at night,” said Romero, who works at Zazi’s in the West Village. Owns locations and Upper East Side, along with plant-based eatery Innocent Tomorrow Inn Village.

“Criminals are patrolling the streets. “I live in the West Village and there it is worse. It is desolate at night, just homeless people and strange people walking around.”

Stratis Morphogen, restaurateur of Brooklyn Chop House and Brooklyn Dumpling Shop, also said the West Village is “out of control.”

He described a horror show where drug dealers are dispersed in chairs in front of closed stores, asking people if they want cocaine, ecstasy, and marijuana.

restaurant owner Stratis Morphogen
Morphogen said the crime has delayed the opening of their new restaurant.
Matthew McDermott
A graffiti-covered storefront at the corner of Bleacher Street and McDougall in the West Village.
A graffiti-covered storefront at the corner of Bleacher Street and McDougall in the West Village.
NY Post/Billy Becerra

“This is the heart of New York City and the NYU dorm. Where is the NYPD to protect students and small business owners?” Morphogen said the mural is “wall to wall”.

“There isn’t even an inch of the neighborhood that hasn’t been tagged,” he said. “We complain to the NYPD and they don’t do anything, and if they do something, the criminals come back the next day. There’s no real solution. It took eight years to screw this up and fix the problem.” It will take more than a few months but it needs to be addressed as we are losing our community.”

Morphogen signed a lease in 2020 to open Pappas Taverna, a wood-fired Greek restaurant at 103-105 McDougall St., with chef Peter Spryopoulos of Milos and Avra, during the pandemic.

It was to open last fall but the opening was delayed. At first, there were the usual hold-ups, from building permits to supply chain issues related to the pandemic, but crime escalated things even further.

A storefront covered in graffiti in the West Village.
Morphogen said the graffiti in the neighborhood is “wall to wall.”
NY Post/Billy Becerra

“We’ve been broken twice,” Morphogen said, after the thieves got away with $20,000 worth of construction equipment that was locked inside the restaurant. Now he hopes to open by the end of the summer.

According to the NYPD, total arrests in the Sixth Precinct, which covers Greenwich Village, increased 44.6% from 597 to 863.

“The problem is we don’t have enough police and McDougall St is very difficult,” said Pari Dulac, of the Mineta Lane-Street Association and former owner of the now-closed restaurant La Boheme on Mineta Lane.

Dulac said that before COVID there were monthly community meetings at a local church, involving police and local politicians, but the meetings ended during the pandemic.

Graffiti in the West Village
According to the NYPD, total arrests in the Sixth Precinct, which covers Greenwich Village, increased 44.6% from 597 to 863.
Gregory P. Mango

A spokesperson for the NYPD said the meetings are now held virtually and will return in person soon, but did not give a date.

The problem is not limited to the village only.

The owner of a Lower East Side bar, who did not wish to be named, said he also needed to hire a third-party security company to keep strays from his customers.

“Drug dealers and panhandlers are very aggressive,” he said. “I have the homeless camping on my stoop.”

Graffiti in the West Village
The problem is not limited to the village only. A Lower East Side bar owner said he also needed to hire a third-party security company to keep strays away from his customers.
Gregory P. Mango

Gossip owners Jimmy Rizvi, and little Mia, which is currently in Dumbo and opening next week at Chelsea Market, say their Union Square gossip has broken out three times – and homeless people and drug users in their outdoor sheds. Shooting, leaving behind his used syringes.

“There has definitely been an increase in crime and homelessness. We’ve never seen this before the pandemic. We need more policing and stricter laws. The police tell us that they won’t even be visible until it’s big. They are very few employees,” said Rizvi.

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