Unemployed city restaurant workers are banging down doors to find work in the Hamptons as the dining scene there explodes thanks to fleeing Manhattanites.
But working in the luxurious beach hamlets also presents a unique set of hardships, especially for restaurant workers with young children and apartments in NYC.
Felix, who asked that his surname be withheld, lost his job in March as a waiter at Serafina, a trendy Italian eatery on the Upper East Side. He didn’t qualify for unemployment insurance, and it wasn’t until July that he found work again as restaurants on the Long Island shore reopened their doors. He’s now earning more than he did in the city — but at the cost of spending time with his 16-year-old son.
“I am worried that I won’t be there for him although I can help with homework on weekends,” said Felix, 46. “But I have to keep working in the Hamptons or I won’t be able to feed my son.”
On the bright side, Felix said he is earning $300 more a week at Blu Mar in Southampton than he did in the city. And Blu Mar owner Zach Erdem provides free housing for workers above the restaurant.
“That’s where I live,” said Hugo, who also pays $800 for his share of his sister’s two bedroom in Brooklyn.
Luis, who also declined to give his last name, says he was a captain at Cafe Boulud making $1,800 a week after taxes before he lost his job in March as the coronavirus stripped NYC’s once vibrant restaurant scene of everything but takeout.
Born in Mexico, Luis had not yet received his legal immigration papers, so he wasn’t getting unemployment insurance. After months of looking for new work — during which time he depleted his savings on rent and other expenses — Luis found work at Calissa in Water Mill, NY, which means he’s now apart from his four kids five days a week.
“It is very hard because I don’t get to see my family. It is like I am living in another country and I hope I don’t have the virus when I come back to see them,” Luis said.
Still, he says he is grateful for the work. “I don’t know what I would have done with my life without this job. I brought other employees here from the city. This was their only chance to work. Everyone has families and kids and they need jobs. It is far, but we are just thankful to work.”
James Mallios, who owns Calissa, says it’s just another example of how out-of-touch Mayor de Blasio was when he said City Hall’s plan for indoor dining could wait because it’s “a very optional activity” for those with money.
“This is the biggest problem that I have with de Blasio. He said eating out is an upper middle class problem,” Mallios said. “Who the f–k does he think works in these restaurants? They sure as s–t aren’t upper middle-class. They are traveling five days a week to work in the Hamptons because that’s where the jobs are.
“These are people with families. How can they manage working in the Hamptons and putting their kids to school in the city? How can you keep schools open but not restaurants?” said Mallios, who is also providing housing for around 35 city-based workers who are currently commuting to the Hamptons.