MIDTOWN, Manhattan (WABC) -- Workers at the landmark 21 Club held a rally Wednesday and vowed to return to work after the famed restaurant announced earlier this week that it was closing indefinitely due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Even though owners have said they are exploring options that would allow it to reopen at some point, all 148 employees are being terminated.
The Midtown establishment hasn't resumed operations after closing in March, but the workers who are members of the Unite Here Local 100 turned out at the rally to vow, "We'll be back."
Organizers said that collectively, the 120 union cooks, porters, waiters, captains, bartenders, banquet waiters, bussers, sommeliers, coat room attendants and others have combined for more than 1,000 years of serving guests at "21."
Many employees said they had no warning. Andres Giro worked there for more than three decades.
"It is devastating," he said. "I'm 57 years old, and it is hard, especially in the food industry, very hit by the pandemic, and it's going to be hard for these people. If owners are going to reopen they should hire everyone back."
Maria Veramendi has been at the eatery for 10 years.
"It hit us hard, because we didn't expect that to happen," she said. "We're willing to come back when everything is OK to come back."
They said they are looking forward to returning to their jobs and continuing to provide the unique 21 Club experience to guests from around the world, and that they are ready to welcome back customers once the emergency is over.
They said they are also encouraged by the news that tens of thousands of doses of a very effective vaccine are being shipped to New York.
Union officials say they will continue meeting with the management representatives of the owners on issues of support for the laid-off workers, the schedule for reopening, and the protocols for reopening when the time comes.
The 21 Club has been open for nearly 100 years and has been a favorite dining place of presidents since FDR, and Ernest Hemingway and Frank Sinatra had favorite tables there.
The restaurant also appeared in classic films such as "All About Eve."
Statement from 21 Club spokesperson on indefinite closure:
"In accordance with the measures established by the public authorities, 21 Club has been temporarily closed since March 2020 to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus and protect its guests and employees. In light of the ongoing global crisis and anticipated extended recovery period for the hospitality industry, the difficult decision was made that it will not be feasible to reopen the 21 Club in its current form for the foreseeable future. The company is exploring potential opportunities that will allow 21 Club to remain a viable operation in the long term, while retaining its distinctive character. At this early stage, we are not ready to announce any final concept or timeframe, but the vision is that 21 Club will always remain an important social and cultural hub and icon of New York, one that is well positioned to fulfill its role in the City's exciting future when the time comes."
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