Saturday night brought balmy weather… and the return of the teenage Twitter-and-text organized “flash mobs” that have periodically erupted around Center City over the past year. This time, the teens, which various reports say numbered anywhere from the hundreds to the thousands, returned to South Street and restaurateurs and other business owners were not happy. Rick Nichols checked in with South Street restaurateurs like Percy Street’s Mike Solomonov and the owners of Olympia II Pizza, where an employee was injured.
According to the article, although Percy Street restaurant had its best Saturday night covers-wise since it opened, pepper spray mingled with the smoky fumes at the Texas-style barbecue joint:
“for a few minutes late Saturday night, startled customers were left gasping from pepper spray that police used to disperse thousands of teens that had swarmed South Street east of Broad.”
At Supper, a restaurant in the 900 block, bartender Kyle Fennie opened the locked door to let two woman customers out, but a mass of teens descended, and he let the women back inside. During a lull, he walked them to their cars.
And at South Street Souvlaki, which has been on South Street for eons, one old-timer gave her perspective to the Inquirer:
“This is the worst I’ve ever seen it,” said Barbara Bender, who has been a waitress and manager at South Street Souvlaki at 509 South St. for about 30 years.
Normally the popular restaurant is open Saturdays until 10:30 or 11 p.m., but it closed last night at 9:30.
“It’s a bunch of young kids that are creating havoc, and it’s killing our business,” she said. “It’s scary.”
Closing early on a Saturday night will definitely cut into a restaurant’s bottom line in the short term, but it’s the fallout from this event that may really affect these restaurants in the long run. After all of the media coverage of the event over the weekend, we wonder what the cover counts at some of these restaurants will look like next Saturday night, the night traditionally favored by suburbanites to head into the city, especially after reading accounts like this one about a MontCo lady stuck in her car on South Street during the flash mob.
There was no physical damage done to South Street, but the public relations damage is pretty severe. We’re curious to see what the Mayor and the Police Commissioner, who have so far not said much, are going to do about it.