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Early on Tuesday morning, a demolition team arrived to take down the popular outdoor dining shack that had served Hellcat Annie’s and Scruffy Duffy’s through the pandemic. Unlike the recent destruction of outdoor structures on 9th Avenue per City instructions, the choice to remove the shed was made by the bars’ owner, Pat Hughes — under some pressure from the local rat population and the Department of Transportation.
“I decided to take it down to get ahead of things. To be a part of the reopening of New York,” said Hughes as he watched the sheets of metal, pieces of wood and furniture being crushed on 10th Avenue. “Let’s get back to basic business and have people enjoying New York city life indoors again.”
Hughes built the outdoor structure in November 2020 to serve Hellcat Annie’s — the first bar he opened up after the initial lockdowns. At the start of COVID, Hughes had decided to hand back the keys on his third bar, Lansdowne Road, further down 10th Avenue, and concentrate on the recovery of his other two pubs. After boarding up his premises for a period, his pointed messages on the hoardings made news worldwide.
Hughes said that serving the extra tables on the street had become an issue — especially while all city hospitality businesses are facing staffing problems. There were also other reasons, like the increase of the local rat population and pressure from the DOT to get traffic moving on 10th Avenue. “I felt that I had built the perfect housing for the city’s rat population and they had multiplied. People out here dining in the evenings had started to see rats — and by law, my exterminator is not allowed to treat rodents outside of the restaurant,” Hughes explained. “Also, DOT has been coming down on me with cease and desist orders for having an outdoor dining shed in a no-standing zone. They had asked me to remove it between the hours of 4pm and 7pm.”
The “shack” was known in Hell’s Kitchen as one of the best built places to eat out for food and drink, even neatly cut out to protect a tree. It had survived two winters — and at the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had been illuminated in a blue and yellow flag in support. Many walking along 10th Avenue yesterday morning commented that they were sad to see it go.
“For now, we’re gonna leave a few of the tables on the sidewalk because those comply with the city outdoor open restaurants program,” said Hughes. “And we do hope to open up a legitimate sidewalk cafe, just as soon as I can get the papers filed.”
Hughes had originally owned Scruffy Duffy’s on 8th Avenue from 1990 to 2008, before moving to open bars on 10th Avenue. He renamed his Kiabacca Bar as Scruffy Duffy’s just before COVID. The scraggy dog sign had become a landmark on the side of the outdoor shed — but was a victim of the crusher too. “I had no feelings about that particular Scruffy. I thought I had him a lot longer than I did, but I spotted a date on the back of it. And I actually only had that made in 2000.” He did pose for a quick picture with Scruffy before he went!