A current and former employee of DUMBO's River Cafe have lobbed some damning accusations at the restaurant in the NY Post today. According to the employees, the River Cafe actively discriminates against orthodox Jews (and less controversially, sweatpants aficionados) by using a series of code words to identify them. And they claim that the cafe imposes a fee of "a minimum of $25 will be enforced that is just for Jews wearing yarmulkes or any sort of religious hat."
The current employee told them that reservationists have a book filled with notes from management. “The book says that if two religious Jews come in, we call ahead to the maitre d’ and say, ‘Is there space for two at the water bar?’” the staffer said. “The terminology in the book is ‘special hat’ or ‘religious hat.’ At the bar, the $25 minimum is only enforced for Jews.”
Another note, which the Post got a photo of, reads: “If they look as if they will only order water (not that we stereotype or anything) mention the minimum right away. If they ask for the bar and there is room, tell them there is a minimum at the bar as well.” And yet another note reads: “[We] have decided that when people come in for the bar and are A. wearing sweat pants and B. religious top hats and strings, you must say for A. gym bar and for B. water bar. Thanks.” At the end of that note, it also says, "Okay guys, I'm kidding but seriously," but the rest is cut off.
As for why they might not be so fond of religious Jews, the employees told the Post it was because the couples, who are required by Jewish law to dine in pubic, like the view but don't drink alcohol—without the drinks, they don't spend enough money and take up valuable seats.
Assistant manager Teddy Dearie denied the discrimination charges, and said the $25 minimum applies to everyone: “If it wasn’t applied, that is just someone not doing their job. The phrase ‘water bar’ I’ve never heard before. That phrase, or any deviation from the policy that’s been in place for several years, is not condoned by the restaurant and is indicative of an individual not performing the duties for which they have been hired.”
For their part, the Post says they sent a Jewish couple (dressed in yarmulke and long skirt) there on Thursday; they were told the bar is full, but they could sit on the empty terrace and pay the $25 per person minimum. Soon after, two of their reporters, not wearing any religious clothing, were seated on the terrace and were not required to pay a minimum—and their bill ended up only coming to a little over $18.