Viral video shows Manhattan's Comedy Cellar made customers wait as water rushed in

The Comedy Cellar’s Village Underground location was allegedly aware the space would possibly flood


                            Viral video shows Manhattan's Comedy Cellar made customers wait as water rushed in
Commuters walk into a flooded 3rd Avenue/149th st subway station on September 2 (David Dee Delgado/Getty Images and TikTok/@brklynhealth)
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NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK: The remnants of Hurricane Ida caused chaos and death in the city. As per news reports, there have been at least 13 deaths in New York City and 23 deaths in New Jersey. But even as the city came to a standstill with transportation systems out of order because of a waterlogging, a different scene played out in the iconic Comedy Cellar, an influential comedy club in Manhattan. 

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As per the Daily Beast, on Wednesday night, September 1, the basement at the club suddenly began to flood, cutting short Al Franken’s set. But instead of hurriedly ushering guests out, the report said, the venue made people wait in rising waters to close out their tabs. A TikTok video of the same has now gone viral. 

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The video shows patrons standing in several inches of water so that they could allegedly finish paying. The caption of the TikTok claims the customers were kept in the basement by Comedy Cellar for “an extra fifteen minutes”. The text in the TikTok read: “Capitalism is when the comedy cellar keeps you in the basement for an extra 15 minutes to make sure everyone pays while the place is literally flooding. Just take the L for public safety.”

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The video shows people clambering onto chairs to avoid the flooding, with wait staff stomping through ankle-high waters trying to collect payment. The Daily Beast also reported that the Comedy Cellar’s Village Underground location was allegedly aware the space would possibly flood -- staffers reportedly put out a line pump during the middle of the show to divert any water that might rush in, an attendee claimed.

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Reportedly, the flooding began while Franken was on stage. The former Minnesota senator and comedian who was accused of several instances of sexual misconduct had to be interrupted by a staffer to stop his set, two attendees said. Singer-songwriter Natalie Hart told the Daily Beast that she did not realize the venue had started flooding until Franken’s performance was cut short.

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People make their way in rainfall from the remnants of Hurricane Ida on September 1, 2021, in the Bronx borough of New York City. The once category 4 hurricane passed through New York City, dumping 3.15 inches of rain in the span of an hour at Central Park. (Photo by David Dee Delgado/Getty Images)

 

“We were sitting in one of the booths that were a little bit above the floor, so we didn’t notice, and nobody said anything for a while,” she said. “Once it got to be pretty noticeable, the house manager flashed the light at [Franken]. He’s like, ‘Oh, do I need to cut it short?’ And he was like, ‘Yes, it’s flooding.’ And [Franken] was like, ‘Oh, well do I really? Is it that serious?’ And he was like, ‘No, absolutely. Everybody needs to go.’ We all looked down and everything happened very fast from there.”

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Another attendee, Ali Jalali, said a staffer called out to the room that everyone needed to close their tabs before trying to leave. “At first, it wasn’t that bad,” Jalali said, adding that people initially seemed okay with closing out their tabs, but as the waters began to creep higher, some grew agitated. “People were really trying to [leave], like, ‘Where’s my card?’” he said. “Later, when it got really bad, I think there was a server who said, ‘All right, go, get out.’ But a lot of folks had already paid by then.”

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Hart, who was reportedly wearing three-inch heels, experienced her ankles getting nearly submerged by the time she was able to finish paying her tab, around five to ten minutes later. Jalali said his shoes were soaked, and he waited up to 15 minutes. Hart said that the situation could have easily turned dangerous. “There should be some kind of procedure that when the thing starts flooding, they just take the financial loss and write it off, or maybe have some type of honor system,” Jalali said. “I’m not surprised they don’t [have a procedure in place] because it’s probably a rare event, but I think it will be less rare going forward.”

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New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday morning, September 2, "We saw a horrifying storm last night, unlike anything we've seen before. Unfortunately, the price paid by some New Yorkers was horrible and tragic." New York Police Department Commissioner Dermot Shea said at least eight deaths took place in residential homes in basements.

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