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Sep 4, 2011 11:30 AM

What's with Manhattan restaurants keeping their doors open with no air conditioning in 90 degree weather?

I cannot tell you how many times during the New York City heat wave I've walked out of restaurants because they won't put their air conditioning on and some don't even use fans. I've wanted lunch on the Lower East Side and thought I'd try the Meatball Shop. It was stifling hot so I left and told the staff why.

This has happened many times at other restaurants and cafes and I just don't get it. Are the restaurants trying to save money? If so they're not making money either because they're not attracting customers who want a nice cool room to relax and have lunch or dinner. I don't think they're doing it to save electrical power so what's the story?

It amazes me that the 90 plus degrees heat doesn't seem to bother some folks.

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  1. Are you suggesting that the Meatball Shop is not attracting customers because they don't put their air conditioning on? That's a good one!!! (And btw, what heat wave are you speaking about?)

    6 Replies
    1. re: Blumie

      The Mealball Shop was just one example. I know they're very popular and also do a brisk take-out.

      What heat wave am I talking about? Well the one we've had this past July where several days were in the 90s with no let-up. Even at this writing, September 4, it's well into the 80s.

      When a restaurant is so hot, I wonder how fresh the food is because kitchens are usually hot even when the restaurant is cool. If I want to dine in a sweatbox, I'll eat a sandwich in my gym's sauna. What happened to comfort for the diner?

      1. re: Beau711

        During the July heat wave, the city issued a stern warning of fines if a restaurant kept their a.c. on when their doors are open. So, I'm guessing the Meatball Shop decided to keep the doors open and shut the a.c.

        I'm totally with you about not wanting to dine in a restaurant that feels like a sauna. We decided not to have lunch at Eataly's Birreria one afternoon and went elsewhere because the roof was closed and even with the fans going, it was uncomfortably warm. However, I'm not sure they even have a.c.

        And you're right about the temperature today, 9/4. We're in NJ and when I went out to do some errands, my car thermometer was reading 88. Plus, it's very humid. It seems the dog days of August have migrated to September.

        1. re: RGR

          Thanks, RGR. I thought I was the 'only' one who disliked the heat.

      2. re: Blumie

        "(And btw, what heat wave are you speaking about?)"

        Ummmm...the 3 or more consecutive days above 90 degrees we had this past summer that officially went down on the books as being heat waves? Those heat waves.

        1. re: Blumie

          Sadly, you speak the truth. I boycott a couple of my favourite places because they insist on opening up the front windows. I have to assume it's cheapness. I can't go out to eat somewhere that isn't at least close to as cool as it is at home. Especially given I feel like a loser going places in shorts & tee shirt. It's NY-we should be able to put on some nice clothes without soaking them. I have walked by a restaurant at which I wanted to dine later that evening, just to see if they are wide open to the broiling elements. I also will call ahead and ask if the AC is on and it's really cool. I credit some places with being honest, especially when they know me. Some of the heat we've had this summer is of the type many AC systems simply cannot combat. I tend to choose my venues during the summer according to their AC. It may sound a bit unhinged, but comfort is important. I've also had this discussion with buddies who are restauranteurs. I will drink and eat more if it's cool somewhere. If I'm dying to get out of there, the food isn't that much of an issue. I have been part of big group dinners where we ended up somewhere that wasn't sufficiently cool and I really push to change venue. I'm grateful Fall is on the way, so these considerations kind of disappear. Then all I seek is places with no pretense!

          1. re: sing me a bar

            when it gets really hot, almost every restaurant in NYC expects people in shorts

        2. I'm really with you on this one.

          When my wife and I are dining out and the temperature is in the 90s with high humidity (as in almost every day this summer), if we see the doors and windows open on a restaurant. we just pass it by.

          I'll take a burger and a beer in an air-conditioned pub over the finest meal in a stifling restaurant.

          1. We're with you too Beau711. All the way. We will not even enter a restaurant if the front doors/windows are open on days like you describe. I think the restaurant feels it is "extending" its outdoor dining by doing this. All they are really doing is letting the hot. humid air in. Silly. I;m so happy to find others that feel this way.

            5 Replies
            1. re: ttoommyy

              We just spent 5 sweaty days in the heat and humidity as part of a wedding party and were forced to endure a number of bars - restaurants with the open window policy- the East Village is peppered with them. It really matters when you are dressed up in wedding party attire rather than shorts and flip flops!

              1. re: Berheenia

                Oh No! Not on your wedding day. I'm hoping your wedding banquet was air conditioned and your cake didn't melt. Congratulations on your day.

                Yes, the East Village is known for keeping their windows open yet charging market prices.

                1. re: Beau711

                  "Yes, the East Village is known for keeping their windows open yet charging market prices."

                  And what would you suggest the restaurants charge? Below market prices? These are businesses not your friends. If you don't like how they run their business go elsewhere.

                  1. re: melo7

                    i would suggest they charge less than market because they're saving $$$ on their electric bill at the expense of diners' comfort.

                    I do go elsewhere because I'm a 'hound who likes his comfort. It's not my loss at all. We all have choices and preferences.

                  2. re: Beau711

                    Not my wedding- our son's wedding. It was close with the cake as reception was on a patio next to open door restaurant. And happily I'm not a man - those 3 piece suits were murder in the heat!

              2. Makes you wonder how the rest of the world's population can function without the ubiquitous ice air prevalent in most US indoor places (restos, hangar-size stores like Home Depot, etc.).

                I, for one, am happy when I don't have to bring a scarf & sweater to eat comfortably at a resto in the middle of *summer*.

                I think it's much worse to see so many places WITH a/c AND their doors open. Air-conditioning the sidewalk.

                What energy crisis?

                15 Replies
                  1. re: linguafood

                    Restaurants are not supposed to keep their doors open with the air conditioning on. See RGR's post above. It's a city ordinance and people are encouraged to report the restaurant that does this because it wastes energy.

                    I remember in the good ole days when movie theaters would send out a blast of cool air. It was so refreshing to pass the theater and cool off.

                    I am so looking forward to October

                    1. re: linguafood

                      linguafood, I guess you don't remember the health warnings put out this past July by the New York City Health Department. They advised people to stay cool and hydrated. They even set up emergency centers so people, especially the elderly, could go and cool off.

                      Some people, like you, don't like frigid air conditioning and I can understand that too. However, this past July, New York City set a record for heat waves yet some restaurants continued to not provide air conditioning. Well, these boots are made for walking.

                      1. re: linguafood

                        Completely agree. COMPLETELY. It's hot. It's summer. It should be hot. I'm so glad not to have to bring a sweater everywhere.

                        1. re: rockandroller1

                          "Completely agree. COMPLETELY. It's hot. It's summer. It should be hot. I'm so glad not to have to bring a sweater everywhere."

                          So, conversely, in winter it should be cold in a restaurant? No heat?

                          1. re: ttoommyy

                            There's a little-known thing called moderation. It's useful in so many ways, I don't even know where to begin. Temperature control might be one, for sure.

                            1. re: linguafood

                              Isn't it funny that some people would like it to be 65F inside during the summer and 75F inside during the winter?

                              1. re: melo7

                                It's particularly funny b/c I'd like it to be 75˚F at all times '-)

                                (preferably inside and out).

                                1. re: linguafood

                                  I'd like it to be 65 degrees at all times. Love fall and winter, spring is OK, dislike summer immensely.

                                  1. re: ttoommyy

                                    I'm with you, ttoommyy! It can be a gender thing. I've been on buses which were at a perfectly humane state of coolness while it was roasting outside. Inevitably, some woman would go to the bus driver and ask if they could turn the AC down. He usually would look out at a sea of approving, comfortable riders, most of whom were making faces like " she's crazy" behind her and keep the bus as cool as it was. Buy a sweater if you have the metabolism of a plant.

                                    1. re: sing me a bar

                                      Who was that addressed to...?

                                      Never mind.

                                      1. re: sing me a bar

                                        ttoommyy - I disagree that "it can be a gender thing." I know so many women who are very warm most of the time and some guys that always seem to need a blazer or hoodie to keep them comfortable. I believe lots of this may depend on body weight and hormones so let's not generalize. Just my two cents.

                                        1. re: Beau711

                                          I never said it was a gender thing; sing me a bar did. Anyway, I've noticed in our office here at work, it is mostly the women who are cold. And you know why? They almost all wear flip flops or sandals during the summer, have dresses on and short to no sleeves. The men all have shoes and socks on, pants and short to long sleeves. So in a way, it really CAN be a gender thing. :)

                          2. re: linguafood

                            Totally agree. When we lived in Texas, I carried potholders in my car so I could touch the steering wheel and a sweater so that I wouldn't freeze in just about any indoor place. Restaurants were the worst. I'd order the spiciest thing I could just to generate some heat.

                            Here in Massachusetts, restaurants and box stores are slowly switching to the "freeze" model of climate control. I have no idea why. I understand why grocery stores need to be colder (exception: Market Basket) to help the food keep longer, but clothing stores?

                          3. what bothers me even more is that they store bottles of wine that way...i'm always appalled when i see Italian places in NYC w/ the windows open in the summer and hundreds of bottles of red wine sitting on racks in a 90-degree dining room...