By Jeff Mays
HARLEM—The doors to the still-unfinished Harlem Tavern opened at 1 p.m. for an open call for job applicants. Sixty minutes later, 50 people had been interviewed and plenty more were asking about applications.
"I'm going to send one of my sons here," said Carmen Jackson, 54, a dispatcher for the Metropolitan Transit Authority. "It's like giving one of the birds a push out of the nest."
With 70 full- and part-time positions to fill, Harlem Tavern co-owner Sherri Wilson-Daly was pleased with the interest from and quality of local applicants she had interviewed so far.
"We live in the community," Wilson-Daly said about her and her husband and co-owner Stephen Daly and partner Gareth Fagan. "That's why we especially want to hire local."
The couple also own Tonic Times Square and the Taj Lounge on West 21 st Street. The American-style beer garden expects to open around June 13. It will seat up to 150 people in its large outdoor space. Up to 18 beers will be on tap with a selection of another 40 craft beers. The fare will be solidly American with steak and seafood.
A retro-looking sign was recently erected and workers scurried about Friday afternoon to put the finishing touches on the restaurant, which is located at West 116th Street and Frederick Douglass Boulevard on the site of a former auto repair shop.
"The whole neighborhood is excited about us opening. We are really committed to the idea of this place being a real spot for the community," Wilson-Daly said.
Harlem Tavern has partnered with Seedco, a national nonprofit contracted by the New York City Department of Small Business Services to help further economic opportunities. Seedco will help screen resumes as it has done with several other Harlem restaurants, including Bad Horse Pizza, Red Rooster Harlem, Ristoranti Settepani.
Jobs are scarce in Harlem, where the unemployment rate is about double that of the city-wide average of 7.9 percent.
George Isaacs, 36, a Harlem resident who has 16 years of three star restaurant wait experience, said he was excited about the changes to the neighborhood and the chance to work at Harlem Tavern.
"It used to be time when you didn't want to walk around here after a certain hour," Isaacs said. "This is great for the area, especially with the way the economy is."
Another open job call will happen in the next couple of weeks, said Wilson-Daly.
"We've already found some great candidates. We are looking for people who can help us create a casual and fun atmosphere without losing the high level of service we want to be known for," said Wilson-Daly said.