For the past two months and change, columnists, bloggers and sentimentalists have rattled type upon paper, to lament and reminisce over Florent, a 24-hour diner in the Meatpacking district of Manhattan, which stood as more than an eatery, but a landmark in time, and a metaphor for a city in constant transition.
Yesterday, after twenty-three years, founder and proprietor, Florent Morellet, closed his doors for good, following a month of celebration and farewell.
The procession to the end consisted of parties themed in grief, allotting the public and staff to dwell in weeks of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
There was finally acceptance yesterday. And while Mr. Morellet led the march of his establishment to its final hour—he was unable to negotiate a new lease in a real estate climate that could out bid his $18,000 a month proposal—he never forgot his patrons and as gallantly, he never forgot his staff.
It was reported this morning that the $50,000 he garnered from hocking the restaurant’s memorabilia on eBay, would go to his employees, some of who have been there since the beginning.
The generosity of Mr. Morellet overshadowed the news at the other end of the spectrum where another lawsuit was filed on behalf of restaurant employees against their employer.
Former servers of Tao Asian Bistro in New York City, operated by Asia Five Eight LLC, filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court alleging that the restaurant “misappropriated tips and did not compensate its employees for working overtime hours”.
The attorney for the plaintiffs, Justin M. Swartz of Outten & Golden LLP, stated to NRN that this is “next in a series of suits against New York City restaurants that violated Fair Labor Standards Act and New York labor laws. Our law firm has been flooded with calls from restaurant workers concerning misappropriated tips and failure to pay minimum wage. It’s endemic in the New York City restaurant industry.”
Other operators who have found themselves in legal disputes over wage-and-hour violations are Daniel Boulud, Drew Nieporent, Keith McNally, former Smith & Wollensky operator Fourth Wall Restaurants Inc., and Fireman Restaurant Group.
Without a doubt Mr. Morellet will be missed.