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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.

Demolition begins on the outdoor dining shack at Scruffy Duffy’s and Hellcat Annie’s. All photos: Phil O’Brien

“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.

When Hughes boarded up Hellcat Annie’s at the start of COVID, his messages of “FU Virus” and “We Will Be Back” made the news around the world.

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.

A demolition worker on the outdoor shed at Scruffy Duffy’s

“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!

Bar owner Patrick Hughes with Scruffy Duffy.
Demolition workers on the outdoor shed at Scruffy Duffy’s and Hellcat Annie’s
At the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the shed was lit in a blue and yellow flag in support.
Demolition workers dismantle the outdoor shed at Scruffy Duffy’s and Hellcat Annie’s
Almost there — the scene at lunchtime with the outdoor dining nearly all removed.
The shed at Hellcat Annie’s was used for two winters.
The sounds of the outdoor dining shed being crushed — along with Scruffy Duffy!

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7 Comments

  1. Bravo, Pat! The true vibe & essence of Hell Cat Annie’s and Scruffy’s is best served (pun intended) indoors. Don’t feel comfortable dining indoors? That’s OK, there are plenty of other options. Plus, with the fun additions to Scruffy’s in the past year, maybe now it will return to its fun, upbeat energy as years prior. Maybe we’ll see SINGO make a triumphant return??

  2. Good move, Pat. It’s time for everyone to move on — even though his shed was my favorite one on 10th

  3. Great move Pat! There are literally so many rats living in all of the outdoor dining structures. Watching the demolition of the one outside of Rita’s last night I saw hundreds of rats escaping from the sandbags that were under the structure. And it’s at no fault of the restaurants of course. Just the nature of the “beast”. LOL

  4. I prefer humans to automobiles, so if these were my businesses, I would not have made this choice. I wish the best of luck to them—and congratulate them for surviving these difficult times!

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