New York (CNNBusiness) – The Russian Tea Room is a 100-year-old New York City icon that has long drawn in locals and tourists alike. In its heyday, the restaurant hosted such luminaries as choreographer George Balanchine, artist Salvador Dali and composer Leonard Bernstein, and it was featured in the movies “Tootsie” and “Manhattan.”
It drew crowds who attended concerts at nearby Carnegie Hall, only steps away, or dined there after a Broadway show. But at lunchtime Thursday, the eatery was almost vacant, with a handful of customers sitting at only two of its 30 or so red leather banquettes.
Despite its name, the Russian Tea room isn’t Russian at all. It’s actually owned by a financial group incorporated in New York state. It was opened in 1927 by, perhaps apocryphally, “White Russian expatriates who had fled the Bolsheviks,” according to the restaurant’s website. It has had a succession of US owners ever since.
But that hasn’t stopped protesters looking to boycott all things Russian, even if it’s only a name and a cuisine.
On Thursday, the Russian Tea Room’s restaurant’s manager and its staff members all declined to comment when visited by a reporter. But the restaurant’s owners are clearly aware that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is hurting its business.