Well, it looks like the bad economy has hit home for us here at 600 Third Avenue in Manhattan, as the Au Bon Pain restaurant downstairs from us has closed its doors (there are, however, still over a dozen of the eateries operating in New York County).
But not only is our Au Bon Pain out of business, but the windows of the space are covered with what appears to be fluttering black garbage bags, making the storefront at the truTV building look like the Crimson Permanent Assurance building from "Monty Python’s Meaning of Life."
The whole thing is kind of depressing.
Mind you, not as depressing as the Au Bon Pain when it was open, but still, a downer.
Don’t get me wrong, I liked the place, and got my coffee there almost every day. But we’re talking about an establishment where, when it wasn’t temporarily shut down by the Department of Health the day after rats were spotted partying through its glass doors, boasted one of the most ridiculous money back guarantees in the history of the service industry.
There were signs on every register bragging that "if we don’t give you a receipt, your purchase is free."
As such, they made sure to give you a paper record, whether you wanted one or not, every single time you went in there, even for the smallest purchase. This of course, really came in handy when the IRS rolled out its dreaded annual "coffee and muffin audits."
And, say you didn’t get a receipt one day. How would you go about claiming your free coffee? Well, you’d have to be a giant jerk, that’s how. The only time you get a receipt with any purchase is right after you pay for it. So that meant, in order to take advantage of this deal, you would need to hand over your money, get your change back without a receipt, and instead of, you know, asking for a receipt, be a big enough wanker to demand your money right back, mere seconds after you just handed it over.
But we will miss the place.
We’ll miss the slow service, random lines, totally disorganized coffee station (which was almost always running out of milk, coffee cups and even coffee) and we’ll miss the regular presence of talented character actor Dan Hedaya, whom I saw sitting in there at least 10 times over the past 18 months.
Perhaps most of all, We’ll miss the big sign on the door that read: "Hey you with the big smile, you want a job?" We always got a kick out of that, because if the perpetually dour expressions on the faces of the employees were any indication, it seemed clear the the people with the big smiles had all decided to answer that question with a cheerful "no, thanks!" Or if they did have a big smile, and did take the job, they eventually found that no smile in the world, no matter how big, could possibly hold up against the daily confrontations with the major league jerkwads who angrily demanded their two bucks back every time the register tape went on the fritz.
In Happier Times