Grand Central restaurant owners slam MTA over coronavirus rent prod
Lady Gaga’s dad may soon have company in his rent battle with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, The Post has learned.
Grand Central Terminal bar and restaurant owners are fuming at the MTA — their landlord — for reminding them to pay their rent after they were ordered to shutter in face of the coronavirus.
Less than 24 hours after the Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s edict closing bars and restaurants, the public transportation agency fired off an email addressing “closures due to COVID-19.
The March 17 letter, signed by MTA director David Florio, says the agency will “temporarily” waive its ability to penalize tenants for not being opened for a minimum number of hours — before adding that it expects rents to be paid on time.
“Please note, in accordance with your agreement, your obligation to pay rent continues without abatement,” according to a copy of the letter obtained by The Post.
One former tenant who received the missive called it “tone-deaf,” while a current tenant noted the irony of the MTA being controlled by Cuomo, the same government official who ordered the shutdown.
“You are talking about the MTA squeezing tenants that they know they could put out of business by doing this,” Scott Gerber, operator of the Campbell Apartment lounge in Grand Central told The Post. “It’s unconscionable that a government agency is enforcing our rent obligation when another government agency forced us to close.”
The swanky cocktail bar shells out more than $1 million annually in rent for the lounge, which was originally built as an opulent office leased by financier and railroad executive John W. Campbell in the 1920s.
Gov. Cuomo ordered all bars and restaurants to cease operations by 8 p.m. on Monday, except for takeout orders, as the number of coronavirus cases in New York soared to over 600.
But many Big Apple businesses say takeout has also fallen off a cliff and won’t bring in enough money for them to remain open during the crisis. Half of the 65 retail outlets in Grand Central Terminal serve food or alcohol.
As The Post reported last month, Lady Gaga’s dad, Joe Germanotta, has been refusing to pay rent on his Grant Central Terminal restaurant and bar, Art Bird & Whiskey Bar, claiming the transit system’s homeless problem has damaged his business.
The MTA moved to evict Germanotta, who owes $260,000 in back rent and fees, on Monday — the same day Cuomo ordered eateries close their doors to all business except takeout.
The rent demands come as Pat Foye, chairman and CEO of the MTA, requests $4 billion in federal aid, saying ridership on commuter rail lines, the subway and busses have nose-dived in the face of the pandemic.
“During this challenging time, we are waiving penalties for our tenants who are not able to stay open for the minimum time periods required,” an MTA spokesman said without addressing the rent issue.
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