The iconic River Cafe, on the Brooklyn waterfront in DUMBO—an acronym for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass-- discriminates against Jews dressed in religious garb by enforcing a $25 minimum per guest to sit at the bar, according to an investigative report by The New York Post, which cites one current and one former employee who make the claim.
The employees are instructed to use code words to alert other staff members if anyone wearing a kippah or “strings”—an apparent reference to tzitzit—asks to be seated at the bar, workers said, according to The Post.
A book that reservationists use “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?’ — in which case a minimum of $25 will be enforced that is just for Jews wearing yarmulkes or any sort of religious hat,” said one staffer.
The Post also provides images of the reservation book that appear to back up the claims of the employees. “….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,” reads a note in the book.
“If they look as if they will only order water (not that we stereotype or anything) mention the minimum right away,” another note says. “If they ask for the bar and there is room, tell them there is a minimum at the bar as well.”
While the café management refuted the allegation, claiming that the “$25 minimum applies to everyone” the Post acquired further evidence to substantiate its claim by sending an identifiably Jewish couple to the bar, followed by two secular looking reporters five minutes later.
The reporters were not required to pay a minimum fee and their bill totaled $18.51. The Jewish couple, however, was instructed that they would need to pay a minimum of $25 each.
While the River Café is not kosher, it has become a popular date spot for ultra-Orthodox Jews who enjoy its scenic views.