Last week, Henry Blodget of Business Insider posted a screed against the unnecessary fuss and deep weirdness that comes along with the stoic, tuxedoed man whose job it is to stand in the men’s room at Balthazar and facilitate your post-business hand-wash and primping. “Thanks, but I actually don’t need someone to turn on the water for me. First of all, it wastes water,” he wrote. “Second, it makes me feel like I’m the kind of guy who dreams of being rich enough to be able to pay someone to turn on the water for me.” Blodget debated the practice of tipping attendants, adding that the formality is essentially something that amounts to “extortion-by-guilt.” Weirdly, it seems as though restaurateur Keith McNally agrees.
In a surprise move, McNally sends an e-mail to Foster Kamer at First We Feast saying that he agrees with Blodget, and in the next few weeks, Balthazar will “relieve the restaurant’s bathroom attendants of their duties.” Of course, attentive students of Keith McNally bathroom (and coat-check) attendant minutiae will no doubt remember that Balthazar previously phased out the service employees once before, in January of 2009. They were back on the job, cummerbunds and all, somewhat inexplicably just weeks later. And while we’re already lamenting the forthcoming loss of workers McNally calls “extremely loyal employees who, perhaps surprisingly, love their jobs,” Blodget has already changed his tune.
Actually, let’s try to save jobs of Balthazar bathroom guys… I will eat there every week and request them as waiters. Who’s with me?— Henry Blodget (@hblodget) November 4, 2013
McNally tells First We Feast that “Although I’m looking forward to standing at Balthazar’s urinal without another man staring at me I’ll very much miss my bathroom attendants. They’ve been absolutely wonderful people to work with.“ So what gives? After all, those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it, not to mention tip the dude who’s just handed you a paper towel at least a dollar for that somewhat trivial bit of service.
Update: McNally will not totally can the employees, and instead will offer them jobs elsewhere within his restaurant group. (They’re just leaving the men’s room, in other words.)
* This post has been updated.