Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Rents in Manhattan, pubs, and Irish immigration

The Emerald Inn is a pub on the Upper West Side of Manhattan where I used to grade exams during my first year at Queens College. On Monday, the Times reported that it was granted a rent reprieve by its landlord and got another 2-year lease at affordable rates.

It's the type of place without loud music and high turnover, which probably explains in part why a large rent increase would have done them in. There's no mention of wages specifically, but I wonder whether another explanation is that its labor costs are not at rock bottom like other establishments'. Why might that be the case?

It's an Irish pub, owned by Galway Irish, and according to a current waitress quoted in the article, "you used to have to come off the boat to wait the tables." But given Ireland's rapid economic growth in recent years, it is surely the case that low-wage Irish immigrants have become much more rare. By comparison, it certainly appears that many other food and drink establishments are staffed by immigrants from other countries --- where wages have not risen as dramatically.

Does this potential link imply that Chinese restaurants might be the next to be priced out of Manhattan, after another few decades of growth in China? The thing is, restaurants can always hire workers from different ethnicities. In Berkeley, ethnic Chinese seemed to run most of the highly variegated local restaurants around the university.