696 Madison Ave btw 62nd and 63rd St, Upper East Side
The Place: An overpriced Italian restaurant that was recently exposed for banning women from sitting alone at the bar, for fear that they might be escorts. So naturally, I had to go there and drink alone.
The Time: Thursday January 17, 6:30pm. The New York Post just published an article about a woman who used to enjoy having dinner at the bar by herself at Nello. Not long ago, she was told she had to sit at a table, because dining at the bar was no longer permitted. Then she saw a man being served food at the bar. It was then she found out Nello no longer lets unaccompanied women sit at the bar, because they might be call girls. I may not believe everything the Post writes, but I do believe women, and this woman’s account of what happened is horrifying and despicable. Obviously, since I am a woman who writes about drinking alone in bars, this seemed like the perfect excuse for me to throw on my cherry red faux fur coat that I’ve been too afraid to wear and challenge them to kick me out while calling me a prostitute. I’ve never been more ready for anything. Let’s go.
The Vibe: As a lifelong New Yorker, I’ve known about Nello forever - mostly as the shitty restaurant that secretly charges $275 for “market price” pasta, with one of the worst New York Times reviews ever written, yet has managed to stay open. Before stepping in, I turn on my phone’s voice recorder so I can have tangible proof of some asshole threatening me. I gather all my courage and open the door. A slimy looking, sullen, middle-aged man in a tux is standing there, preventing me from getting fully inside. Cool, so they have the maître d' playing bouncer. Here is the transcript of my conversation with Edward Scissorhands.
Me: Hello, how are you.
(I look passed him; I do not see any bar stools at the bar.)
Me: I was wondering if there was a bar I could sit at.
Him: I’m sorry?
Me: Is there a bar I could sit at and grab a drink?
Him: There is a bar, but it is a display bar. We do not serve at the bar.
Me: Oh - is that new?
Him: It’s for, since...April, March, of last year.
Me: Oh ok. I was told by a friend to come here.
Him: You can have a drink at a table, we encourage people to have drinks at tables.
Him: You can have a seat here.
(Slimy Suit attempts to usher me toward a table in the front. He tries to grab my arm but I jerk away)
Me: I’m going to give my friend a call then, I’ll be back. Bye.
(I proceed to rush out of the restaurant, turn the corner and call my mother hysterically laughing.)
They took away the bar stools, prohibiting anyone from standing or sitting at the bar. I’m not sure exactly when this woman was told she wasn’t allowed to drink at their bar, but it sure as fuck wasn’t before “April, March, of last year.” (Just to debunk Maître Dickwad’s lie further, here’s a photo from Yelp posted by the business owner, dated May 18 2018, where stools are clearly at the bar. And this photo from their Instagram, dated September 22 2018, prominently featuring bar stools.)
You guys. Think about this for a second. Instead of just allowing solo women to sit at the bar, THEY TOOK AWAY THE BAR STOOLS. Instead of thinking, “hey, it’s 2019, maybe women are autonomous beings with their own money who can do things without the permission of men, we should let them patronize our establishment!” or “you know, maybe we shouldn’t assume that a woman alone must be a prostitute, and even if she is, we should welcome her business because her money is as good as anyone’s!” - they decided to eliminate all future profits made from the bar and GOT RID OF THE BAR STOOLS.
This is beyond ludicrous. And incredibly misogynistic.
(Also - a restaurant having a “display bar” is not a thing. This isn’t Barney’s. A bar that doesn’t serve customers directly is called a service bar. If they’re gonna use this as their excuse, they should at least get the name right.)
I was fully prepared for every scenario tonight except for this one.
I was going to sit at the bar and order the second-cheapest glass of white wine.
I was going to wait until I saw a man eating at the bar to ask for a food menu.
I was going to actually use the line “I’d like to speak to the manager” if they told me I wasn’t allowed to order food, or sit at the bar.
If they questioned how I could pay for a $25 glass of wine and a $29 bowl of pasta, I was going to actually use the line “Do you know who I am?” and I was fully prepared to lie and say that I was the heiress of Katz’s Delicatessen.
I was going to force them to tell me, point-blank, to my face, why I wasn’t allowed to sit at the bar, or order food, and if they accused me of being an escort, I would’ve said “HOW DARE YOU THINK I’M AN ESCORT, I’M WEARING A BLAZER” or “SEX WORK IS A LEGITIMATE PROFESSION, AND ANYONE SHOULD BE ABLE TO DRINK AT YOUR BAR, HOW DARE YOU DISCRIMINATE AGAINST WOMEN LIKE THIS.”
But I couldn’t do any of that, because these fucking garbage lizard people think they can solve their little sexism problem by taking away the bar stools.
I don’t think I even need to say this but DO NOT drink here alone. DO NOT patronize this place at all, whether you’re on a date or with your mom or with coworkers. Instead, let’s drive them out of business. Join the many Yelpers who have already skewered this place. Give it a bad review on every site you can. If you happen to know anyone who, for some godforsaken reason, likes Nello, or is thinking about dining at Nello, tell them not to and tell them why. Women deserve a seat at the bar. Let’s close this place down, and give those fuckers nowhere to sit.