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Staffers at NYC’s closed 21 Club worry they won’t come back to work if famed restaurant reopens

New York Daily News logo New York Daily News 12/16/2020 Chelsia Rose Marcius, New York Daily News
a group of people standing in a room: Workers from the 21 club rally in front of the closed business to say 'we’ll be back.' © Darya Kolesnichenko (Custom credit)/New York Daily News/New York Daily News/TNS Workers from the 21 club rally in front of the closed business to say 'we’ll be back.'

New York City’s closed 21 Club could still make a comeback — but laid-off workers worry the famed restaurant might reopen without them.

About 50 cooks, porters, waiters, bartenders, bussers, sommeliers and other staffers rallied outside the iconic W. 52nd Street location Wednesday following an announcement the 90-year-old club was indefinitely closing due to COVID-19 — and that 120 workers might not return.

A spokeswoman said last week that the closure of the famed Prohibition Era speakeasy — and President Trump’s top pick for his 2016 post-election dinner — was not permanent.

Yet staffers represented by Unite Here Local 100 said Wednesday they’ve been left out of those plans.

“We (were) dismissed from our jobs. We are fired, essentially,” said sommelier Flavio Moure, who first started working at the restaurant 15 years ago.

“Other (workers have) been here for 25 to 30 years and more,” he said. “We have invested so much in the 21 Club. We’re family. We’ve watched each other kids grow up.

“What we’re saying is, you can’t just kick us out on the streets … We’re here because when it’s time to reopen, we want to come back in.”

Banquet captain Maria Veramendi, who began working at the club 11 years ago, said she and her colleagues understand the financial strain the pandemic has put on places like the 21 Club — but that doesn’t mean they’re ready to throw in the towel.

“We understand that COVID-19 is happening — but as soon as they open we would like to come back,” she said. “We want the company to treat us with respect and dignity … We’re afraid that when they reopen they won’t hire us back.”

Unite Here Local 100 said they plan to continue meeting with management representatives about the layoffs, the reopening schedule and safe working conditions amid coronavirus concerns.

“Like all restaurant workers in New York, they are looking forward to returning to their jobs when the emergency is over, and continuing to provide the unique “21 Club” experience to guests from around the world,” the union said in a statement Wednesday.

For bartender Miguel Rodriguez, who first started at the club in 1988, decades of dedicated work shouldn’t go unnoticed.

“I’ve been here 32 years. I hope they know what that means,” he said. “We want to come back if they reopen in the future.”


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