Small Business

Restaurant Near Occupy Wall Street Lays Off 21 Employees [UPDATE]

UPDATE 4:20pm, 11/3: Police have removed the barricades in front of Milk Street Cafe, according to reports by DNAinfo, a Manhattan local news site.

A manager at the cafe confirmed the reports. She also said that Marc Epstein, the restaurant's owner, is now interested in hiring back the 21 employees whom he claimed he laid off because the blockades -- which police originally put in place to control the nearby Occupy Wall Street protests -- have impeded access to his restaurant's front door for six weeks.

The manager added that Epstein will only add workers once he sees an up-tick in sales, which, according to Epstein, have dropped by more than 30 percent since the Occupy Wall Street encampment began six weeks ago.

Calls from several city officials to eliminate the barriers reportedly spurred the city's decision to have them taken down.


Steel police barricades near the Occupy Wall Street protests in New York's Zuccotti Park are hurting some nearby businesses -- and have led at least one restaurant owner to lay off employees.

Marc Epstein, owner of Milk Street Cafe, said the metal barriers are reducing foot-traffic and forced him to lay off 21 of his 120 workers last week amidst plummeting sales.

The restaurant's troubles have not been uncommon. Several small businesses in the vicinity of New York's protests and near similar gatherings in city centers across the country have reported that they are feeling the effects of the Occupy movement, as the protests prompt local police to erect barriers and take security measures that may be deterring customers.

"The barricades have created a siege mentality down here that is bad for business," said Epstein, whose cafe is located within blocks of where protesters first started camping out six weeks ago.

Since then, Epstein said he has seen his restaurant's sales plummet by more than 30 percent, as the metal barriers police use to cordon off protesters block easy access to the cafe's front door. His repeated calls to police to remove the blockades have gone unanswered.

Paul Browne, a spokesman for the New York Police Department, did not immediately respond to e-mails requesting comment.

"The police concerns about safety are legitimate," Epstein said. "I just wish that, in their desire to maintain the peaceful environment, we not be the sacrificial lamb."

Correction: An earlier version of this report incorrectly described the location of Milk Street Cafe as being across the street from New York's Zuccotti Park.

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