NYC Businesses Hurt by Broadway Strike

Restaurants, vendors and charities in Manhattan's theater district feel the pain of the strike by stage hands against the League of American Theatres and Producers, now entering the third week. For some charities this is the season to request money during show intermissions.

Copyright © 2007 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

ANDREA SEABROOK, host:

More about the weak dollar in a moment.

First, in the shopping Mecca of Manhattan, two dozen Broadway theaters are dark this weekend, shut down because of a stagehand strike now entering its third week.

NPR's Margot Adler says this, too, has caused an economic loss.

MARGOT ADLER: There are two views of the economic impact of the stagehand strike on New York City. The theater district people will give you one -catastrophic. Tourist bureaus, hotels and the mayor will give you the second -we'll get through. Even the numbers depend on whom you're talking to. At one point, the League of American Theaters and Producers put out a figure of $17 million a day in lost revenue, although they later admitted that would only be if every tourist packed up and went to Florida. The city controller came up with a $2 million a day figure.

And Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, frankly…

Mayor MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (Democrat, New York City): I don't know how you would put a realistic number; it's really guesswork. Is it a cataclysmic thing for this city? No. Is it bad for the city? Yes.

ADLER: If you walk down 5th Avenue, it's packed. The tree at Rockefeller Center is not yet lit, yet swarms of people are watching the skaters and lines for Radio City Music Hall are around the block.

George Fertitta, the CEO of NYC & Co., the marketing and tourism arm of the city, says hotels are running at the same occupancy as usual and international visitors have not cancelled.

Mr. GEORGE FERTITTA (CEO, NYC & Co.): What we've found is that those people that are disappointed in not being able to go a Broadway show are going to off Broadway, off off Broadway, beyond Broadway, attractions, museums.

ADLER: But get a little closer to the theater district and the mood shifts. Tim Tompkins is president of the Times Square Alliance, which represents businesses in the Theater district. He says the city has been sending out a message, Come here. We're thriving. And this hurts that.

Mr. TIM TOMPKINS (President, Times Square Alliance): You know, we got through 9/11 and the shows were dark for two days. And now, this is a much longer timeframe than that.

ADLER: Angus McIndoe is a noted theater district restaurant on a block with theaters showing "Spamalot," "Phantom of the Opera," "Les Mis," "Xanadu" and "The Grinch." The proprietor, Angus McIndoe, says instead of a hundred and seventy reservations, there are 40, and many are friends and symphathizers.

Mr. ANGUS McINDOE (Owner, Angus McIndoe Restaurant): You know, I bought this restaurant right before September the 11th and opened it right after September 11th. There's been blackouts and, you know, we've been through the worse with this restaurant, but this is the worst one. It's a total disaster, and it's the worst thing that could possibly happen at this time of the year.

ADLER: What do you recommend?

Mr. CRAIG COURSEY (General Manager, Theater Circle) That Fred Astair…

ADLER: Two doors down, Craig Coursey, the general manager of the souvenir shop Theater Circle, is looking at piles of t-shirts for darkened shows like "Les Mis" and "Phantom."

Mr. COURSEY: Christmas is going to come anyway and people are still going to come in the city and do some shopping, so it's not like I'll shutter up the doors, but, you know, it would be like Christmas without a tree.

ADLER: And a couple of blocks away, Sahid Morsey(ph), a pretzel vendor originally from Egypt, sums it up less elegantly. He says he usually does a booming business on matinee days - Wednesdays and Saturdays - but now…

Mr. SAHID MORSEY (Pretzel Vendor): No business. Yeah, every Wednesday, Saturday, a lot of people come. No coming. I am lose a lot of money.

ADLER: And while it's natural to assume that restaurant workers and pretzel vendors will suffer, there are hidden costs people don't see.

Tom Viola is the executive director of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, the theater community's main fundraising and grant-making organization. This is the season they come out at every intermission and ask for money, not doing so is a huge loss.

Mr. TOM VIOLA (Executive Director, Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS): It's about $350,000 every week. At this point, Broadway Cares is taking a $700,000 hit.

ADLER: And that's for only two weeks. He hopes people will go to their Web site and donate, but it's different than actors coming out on the stage and talking directly to the audience.

Last year, there were more than 44 million tourists in New York City. Strike or no strike, many of those people will never go to a Broadway show, but as Angus McIndoe said to me as I left his restaurant, a theater district restaurant without theater is like a stadium hotdog without the baseball game.

Margot Adler, NPR News, New York.

Copyright © 2007 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.