Iron Chef Mario Batali has turned the tables on the Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York (ROC-NY), lodging a multimillion dollar lawsuit against the advocacy group which had filed a lawsuit in October against Batali’s restaurant Del Posto for allegedly stealing tips and wages. A temporary restraining order issued by New York State Supreme Court Justice Eileen Rakower on November 23 prohibits ROC-NY from engaging in a variety of demonstration tactics.
The lawsuit claims that ROC-NY engaged in a campaign of unlawful harassment, intimidation, vandalism, and violence against restaurants owned by Batali and Joseph Bastianich, including destroying and defacing the restaurants, terrorizing and physically intimidating employees and diners at restaurants, making violent threats, blocking ingress and egress, and making harassing telephone calls designed to interfere with service to customers.
According to the lawsuit, ROC-NY’s modus operandi is to “organize weekly demonstrations outside the target restaurant by employing ‘rent-a-mobs’ consisting of ROC-NY members, union operatives, students, and political activists – with almost no actual restaurant workers.” The evening of November 13 was particularly raucous at Del Posto, according to the Complaint:
At approximately 6:00 p.m. on Saturday, November 13, 2010, a large group of ROC-NY members and associates arrived at Del Posto and began demonstrating in a violent and aggressive manner. Among other things, the “protesters”: (i) physically blocked passage into the restaurant; (ii) jumped, ran around, and slammed into each other in front [of] the restaurant’s entrance and in close proximity to arriving guests, leaving patrons emotionally shocked and physically threatened; (iii) aggressively shoved flyers into the faces of arriving and departing guests; (iv) threatened patrons not to cross their “picket line,” and verbally assaulted, abused, harassed those who did, including a bride and groom in full wedding attire and other members of the wedding party having an event at Del Posto; (v) physically surrounded the entranceways to the restaurant, making it difficult and uncomfortable for guests and employees to enter; and (vi) yelled, screamed, and banged objects so loudly that it could be heard inside the restaurant, alarming employees and guests, and disrupting Del Posto’s business.
The temporary restraining order obtained by Batali’s restaurants prevents ROC-NY demonstrators from coming within 200 feet of any Batali/Bastianich restaurants, from calling the restaurants, and from making noise that has the purpose to disrupt customers.