The Post saves Times Square restaurant from scaffolding crisis – New York Post

Restaurant News

A popular Times Square eatery was losing business at the rate of a half-million dollars a year due to a next-door scaffold — until The Post came to the rescue just in time for the holiday rush.

The “sidewalk bridge” in front of 147 W. 46th St. —  a long, dark tunnel of steel and wood — is one of four mammoth scaffolds on West 46th Street between Sixth and Seventh avenues. They darken entrances to office buildings, the Kimpton Muse Hotel, several cafes and the Church of St. Mary the Virgin.

The one that’s been a nightmare for Jeremy Merrin, owner of Havana Central at 151 W. 46th St. doesn’t hide the front of his jumbo Cuban restaurant— it’s in front of the office building to its west.

But fewer customers made their way from Times Square to the colorful, two-level mecca for churrasco and arroz con pollo once the scaffold went up last June. Tourists were put off by having to walk under the eyesore to reach Havana Central— if they knew the restaurant was there at all.

Besides deterring strollers, the shed also blocks views from the west of the 20-foot tall “Havana Central” sign. Merrin built the colorful, retro-style neon sign 15 years ago precisely to draw hungry customers from Elmo-land.

The scaffold took a big bite out of Havana Central’s walk-in traffic, which is a “very major percentage of our business,” he said. As a result, Merrin said, “We are a half-million dollars off what we were tracking in revenue [for 2019]” before the scaffolding was erected in June.

His income for the first five months of 2019 before the scaffold went up was 5.9 percent ahead of the same period in 2018. But it started to dip as soon as the scaffold appeared and continued to slump — recently down $63,000 a month over the same period last year, according to Merrin.

Jeremy Merrin outside of Havana Central
Jeremy Merrin outside of Havana CentralTaidgh Barron

“For a small company like Havana Central, this is a life-endangering amount of money to lose,” he said.

The owners of 147 W. 46th St., GFP Real Estate, said they were just as eager as Merrin to take the scaffold down because the building’s facade work was certified as finished on Oct. 22. The repairs weren’t due to Local Law 11, which requires inspections with scaffolds every five years for buildings taller than six stories, but were “voluntary,” according to a Department of Buildings rep.

“We pay rent for the shed so it’s in our interest and our tenants’ interests to have it removed,” GFP senior-vice-president Jim Coffey said.

But a bureaucratic standoff with city agencies threatened to keep the eyesore in place indefinitely.

The DOB blamed the landlord, claiming last week that no inspection was needed and that GFP’s contractors “can remove the shed at any time.”

But Coffey said the DOB first had to sign off on an engineer’s report stating that an outstanding violation listed by a different city agency, the Environmental Control Board, had been corrected.

The New York Post, which has been highlighting scaffold abuses around town, prodded all hands to resolve things. Finally, on Friday, the DOB sent an inspector who OK’d the scaffolding removal. Coffey said it might happen as early as next week.

A relieved official of the Times Square Alliance, which has offices in the same building as 147 W. 46th St. — aka 1560 Broadway although it’s on Seventh Avenue — termed the good news “a Christmas miracle.”

Meanwhile, scaffold misery goes on for others on the block.

Des O’Brien, owner if O’Brien’s pub across the street, said business fell 15 percent when a scaffold went up over the Kimpton Muse Hotel at 130 W. 46th St. next door in mid-2018. He said it remains that way due to the bridge over his entrance.

“It always happens with a scaffold,” O’Brien said. “You’re buried.”

Sources said TGI Friday’s at 149 W. 46th St., a few steps east of Havana Central, has also been rocked by the elaborate scaffold and netting at Church of St. Mary the Virgin, a designated city landmark which is undergoing extensive restoration that might take years to complete.

“Derelicts squat under it and people are afraid to walk past,” a source said. The restaurant’s manager didn’t get back to us.

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