Could police barricades set up to control Occupy Wall Street crowds be to blame for 21 people losing their jobs at the Milk Street Cafe? That's owner Mark Epstein's story and he's sticking to it.
Epstein, who chose the Wall Street location because of heavy pedestrian traffic, said business had been steadily increasing since he opened the eatery in June. A few weeks after the protest began in September, though, he said everything changed.
"All of the sudden, everything went whacky and these barricades went up," Epstein told Metro. "And every week, it started to impact business more and more."
Epstein said sales took such a nose-dive in recent weeks that he was forced to eliminate an entire shift of workers and change his closing time from 9 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. during the week.
"I blame it on three groups," Epstein explained. "Protesters, city officials and police. The barricades are it."
Many people who work or live in the financial district have complained about the barricades set up by police on Wall Street, which have led to cramped and crowded sidewalks. In the early weeks of the protest, police also temporarily closed several subway entrances in the area.
Epstein said he believes those routine hassles caused people to avoid Wall Street, leading to the sharp decline in sales at the Milk Street Cafe. When asked whether he could bring those 21 laid off employees back to work if the barricades are removed, Epstein said he isn't sure.
"Nothing would make me happier. It depends on the business coming back," he said.