By Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger
Health regulations have hamstrung an 80-year-old tradition at New York’s Algonquin Hotel. Once known as the home of the Algonquin Round Table that brought together famous journalists, playwrights, and sports writers, the hundred year old Midtown landmark was also noted for its free roaming cats. For over eighty years, Algonquin guests were treated to a lobby cat usually bearing the name Matilda. Alas, NY City Health Department regulations have doomed the hoary tradition. A spokesperson for the Department tells us that, “According to the New York City Health Code, live animals are not allowed in food service establishments (except for edible fish, shellfish, or crustacean) unless a patron needs a service dog.”
Not wishing to run afoul of the regulations and hoping to avoid the hefty fine, Algonquin management have confined Matilda III to the arrival area, behind the reception desk, and to her favorite spot, the coat room. Matilda has never bitten or scratched a guest and she has quite a following. She has her own mail box and regularly receives mail. She’s been featured in the New York Times when her collar was stolen. A birthday party is thrown for Matilda every year by the staff. She even has a page on the hotel website.
The lobby cat was the idea of the luxury hotel’s owner, Frank Case. An animal lover, he once welcomed a stray cat into the hotel for some needed R & R and the tradition was born. The Matildas are very popular with the guests and the recent change has left frequent visitors in a quandary. “People miss seeing Matilda moving around the lobby,’’ Manager Gary Budge said. “They miss that part of the connection they’ve previously enjoyed. But this is the right thing to do. As we know, everything changes.’’
The hotel has assigned staff to watch over Matilda III and make sure she doesn’t violate the health code. No word yet on whether Matilda has agreed to the changes. I’m betting she’s indifferent.
Source: NBC News
~Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger