According to The New York Times, Danny Meyer will open a small restaurant inside the National September 11 Memorial Museum later this summer, called The Pavilion Café. The museum itself opens to the public Wednesday, May 21st.
The Pavilion Café will seat 80 people and serve “comfort foods like tomato soup, grilled cheese, and brownies,” and feature locally-sourced ingredients. The café will also serve breakfast pastries, New York draft beers, and American wines on tap.
The announcement of Meyer’s next venture comes on the heels of significant public outcry over the museum’s gift shop, the revenue from which will support the museum’s operating costs.
For some families of 9/11 victims, the idea of the museum “monetizing their families’ final resting places” has garnered some anger.
Jim Richies, whose son, a firefighter, died in the attacks, and is himself a retired member of the New York City Fire Department, told CNN that he considered the gift shop an inappropriate tourist attraction.
"Basically, they're making money off of my son's dead body. I think that's disgusting," said Riches.
In contrast, Lee Ielpi, a member of the museum board whose son, a firefighter, also died in the attacks, pointed out the necessity of establishing a reliable source of revenue to keep the museum open.
"Twenty years from now, we need to make sure the people that step foot on this plaza know where they're stepping and when they go into the entrance and go into the museum,” said Ielpi. “They need to know what they're going to see there."
In its coverage, The New York Post referred to the upcoming restaurant as part of the museum’s “appetite for crass commercialism,” and Steve Cuozzo, The Post’s restaurant critic, called the restaurant concept worse than the gift shop.
So we're getting a USHG cafe w/wine & beer in 9/11 Museum. Worse than gift shop. No wonder they kept it quiet until after press preview.
— Steve Cuozzo (@stevecuozzo) May 21, 2014
It’s worth noting, however, that the September 11 Museum will not be the first memorial space to include a restaurant. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, for example, includes an adjacent cafe that is open for breakfast and lunch every day, “and snacks in between,” with kosher items prepared offsite.
The organization for Pacific Historic Parks serves four National Park Service sites and pays tributes to the events of World War II. The organization provides support for survivors, veterans, and their families, and operates an active online gift shop offering commemorative items. One of these sites, the American Memorial Park in Saipan, also includes public spaces with barbecue pits and picnic tables for public use.
In spite of the negative light cast on the Memorial Museum’s business ventures, the consideration of revenue sources is a crucial component of the memorial’s longevity. As a longtime New York City-based restaurateur, Meyer’s involvement in an important city landmark makes a certain amount of sense.
“We knew that people would need a place to rest, to reflect and hopefully to be restored,” Meyer told The Times.
Karen Lo is an associate editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @appleplexy.