Famed New York comedy club makes guests pay their tabs before fleeing during flood


  • The basement of the legendary Comedy Cellar started flooding as New York was hit with severe fallout from Hurricane Ida.
  • The flooding started in the middle of Al Franken’s set.
  • Guests weren’t allowed to leave until their tabs were settled, so they stood around waiting in rising floodwater.

Guests of the Comedy Cellar in Manhattan were unpleasantly surprised last week when the basement suddenly began to flood because of fallout from Hurricane Ida.

However, instead of hastily escorting guests out for their safety, the venue made people wait in rising waters to close out their tabs.

Video shows people climbing onto chairs to avoid the floodwaters, with servers trouncing through the ankle-high flood to collect payment from guests.

The venue was apparently aware of a possible flood. An attendee claims that employees put out a line pump during the show to divert any water that might rush in.

The flooding started while former Sen. Al Franken was onstage. The 70-year-old avoided the spotlight since 2018 when he resigned from his post after multiple women accused him of sexual misconduct.

Franken reportedly didn’t stop his set until a staff member interrupted him.

“We were sitting in one of the booths that was a little bit above the floor, so we didn’t notice, and nobody said anything for a while,” singer-songwriter Natalie Hart 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.”

Another attendee, Ali Jalali, said an employee announced that everyone needed to close their tabs before leaving. Jalali said people seemed OK with that at first, but guests grew agitated as the water rose. “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.”

Both Hart and Jalali’s shoes were soaked by the time they’d each finished paying their tabs.

Hart said she was happy to close out her tab since the wait staff got paid but realized in hindsight that the situation could have easily been dangerous.

Both Hart and Jalali think the club should come up with a plan in case this happens again, as the effects of climate change sparked calls for an overhaul of the city’s infrastructure.

“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.”

Source: Daily Beast

Photo credit: “The Famous Comedy Cellar in Greenwich Village” by Paul Stafford for travelmag.com is licensed with CC BY 2.0.

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