Is a Burger at Corner Bistro Worth a Black Eye?

imageUPDATE: Nick responds to the comments on this post and elsewhere regarding more details.

It was nearing midnight last Friday when I stepped into Corner Bistro, the burgers-and-beer hangout for West Villagers who’ve emptied their last dark ’n stormy at Beatrice Inn. I was with my boyfriend and three other friends. Hungry and thirsty, we settled down at a table near the front door, waiting for service. We came for an order of fries, but left with a black eye, a few welts, and an employee screaming “faggots” as he threw me to the floor.

I’ve been contemplating writing about what happened for five days now. Did bringing up a recently buried “attack story” make me sound like a self-righteous victim or, worse, a whiny pussy? Had there been no homophobic rhetoric, would this be lumped in with the rest of the nonsense that transpires in New York after dark? Worse, was I ruining my chances of ever tasting another Bistro burger?

The recap: My boyfriend sat down at a four-top. A man — a busboy or a waiter, definitely not a host — told him that our group couldn’t sit down. “You have to order food,” he said. “We’ll start with fries,” said my boyfriend, not moving. The man then grabbed the back of his shirt, at which point I reached in, instinctively, to take his hand away. I was then thrown down, the side of my head the last thing to hit the ground. There was some confusion as my boyfriend tried to stop the whole thing, and was then punched in the face, while the Bistro worker screamed “faggots” a few times, for good measure.

The rest is details, bits and pieces that hurt less like a blunt blow to the temple, and more like a slow sting. We left, of course, flagging down a nearby cop car to explain what had happened. The two officers spoke with the Bistro worker, and came back apologizing: “There’s really nothing we can do. You aren’t visibly hurt. You can always file an official complaint if you’d like.” But, to be honest, it was all a little embarrassing. The bar had been busy. People had noticed. And genuine rage turned into petulant impotence when I realized that no one really cared.

We walked to a nearby bar. There was no way this hateful little shit with anger issues was going to ruin our night. Thirty minutes passed, but the anger hadn’t. My boyfriend and I, leaving our friends to their drinks, returned to Corner Bistro to speak with a manager who was, that night, the older of two mainstay bartenders. If he wasn’t going to jail, the guy who gave my boyfriend a black eye was at least going home with the classifieds. Here is the conversation between the manager and I, roughly:

Me: “I’m sorry that we caused such a scene, and I really don’t want to add to the trouble. But I do want you to know that your employee hit us, threw us, and called us a couple of faggots.” Manager: “I didn’t see anything.” Me: “You didn’t?! You were right in front of us when it all happened.” Manager: “Just leave. I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Me: “But we were here with the fucking cops! What do you mean you didn’t see anything? How did you possibly not see anything?” Manager: “Get out and don’t ever, ever come back.”

I scream a few lies about working for The New York Times, about “taking them down,” and demand that he write his name down for me.

“I’m not writing anything down for you assholes.”

And it’s at this moment, during the many times I’ve gone over this conversation since, I get most upset. Not only was it okay — according to the police and the restaurant management — for the Bistro worker to attack two of his customers, but also, culpability on the part of the blind-eyed manager and his establishment was thrown to the floor when I was. Anyway, I obviously don’t write for The New York Times and I’m certainly not going to “take down” Corner Bistro with one blog post. But I won’t go back there again no matter what transpires at the Beatrice door. And that’s a shame, because Corner Bistro has pretty great burgers.

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