By ANNAROSE RUSSO
Television production crews filming at Ruby’s Oyster Bar on Purchase Street last week interfered with neighboring businesses and invaded downtown parking lots, according to some concerned business owners.
The CBS network pilot “Madame Secretary” starring Tea Leoni filmed in the Rye restaurant from around 2 p.m. on Tuesday, March 25, until 1 a.m. Wednesday morning.
The show, produced by actor Morgan Freemen, tells the story of a teacher, played by Leoni, who finds herself as the new U.S. Secretary of State and struggles to balance her personal life with her new political position.
While big-name productions might draw interested spectators to the sidewalks and drum-up excitement in the city, some local businesses felt last week’s filming was disruptive and are calling on the city to re-evaluate its negotiations with production crews.
Mike Fabry, co-owner of Rye Grill & Bar, said the restaurant saw less business than a normal Tuesday due to the filming.
“We only did 60 lunches as opposed to the normal 100,” he said. “That’s a 40 percent loss for one afternoon.”
The production crew expressed interest in filming at the Rye Grill, but Fabry decided against it.
“It wasn’t worth shutting down for the day,” Fabry said about the money the production company offered.
The restaurant is located across from the Rye Metro-North train station, just off of Purchase Street.
Shop owners along Purchase Street expressed similar concerns about the impact of the filming, mostly related to the lack of parking the production crew left for residents and shoppers.
According to Ruby’s co-owner Lisa McKiernan, the crews occupied the parking lot behind the Wells Fargo bank on Purdy Avenue all day, yet didn’t use the parking lot until 4 p.m. Crews started setting up along the downtown thoroughfare around 7 a.m., diverting traffic and limiting parking in the downtown municipal lots.
“Parking is hard enough,” McKiernan said of the downtown area. “Add [filming] into it, and it creates difficulty.”
The owners of Ruby’s, which was shut down for the entire day due to the filming, received an undisclosed amount in compensation from the production team.
The lack of available parking also impacted scheduling at Pushblow salon, according to manager Kristina DiPietro.
“Since we work on 30 minute appointments, when people spent time looking for parking, it backed us up,” DiPietro said.
Tim Rabb, manager at the Rye Running Company, said the filming affected the store’s traffic on Tuesday.
“Because of the activity, the street closing, the lack of parking, there was no one in the store,” he said. “On the bright side, the crew came in and shopped in the store.”
While the filming inconvenienced business owners, Rye City officials note some of the benefits filming in Rye brings to the city.
Mayor Joe Sack, a Republican, confirmed $13,000 was raised from the production company during last week’s filming. In addition, the production company paid for the police overtime required for the filming to take place and the Rye City Fire Department was given $2,000 because it was the site of multiple costume changes.
Rye has been the site of filming on multiple occasions and city officials have taken suggestions from residents and business owners into consideration this year. Since the filming is being done
downtown, many believe the revenue should be put back into the central business district.
According to Sack, a large portion of proceeds from last week’s filming will go into purchasing additional BigBelly garbage compacting machines—solar-powered trash compactors—for the downtown. Sack said the garbage compactors “have been successful in keeping the streets clean and reducing the amount of man hours of our DPW to come and empty the containers.”
When planning with production crews regarding scheduling, City Manager Scott Pickup said the clerk’s office drives a hard bargain and focuses on doing what is best for the community.
“If it’s a holiday event or a time when the merchants might be experiencing high volumes, we certainly try to avoid some of those conflicts so that we don’t disrupt things in the normal day-to-day commerce,” Pickup said.
This production company—differing from other production companies that have filmed in Rye in the past who brought in their own catering services—gave the actors and crew members money to purchase meals in the downtown area, which inevitably drove business to the surrounding restaurants.
Looking to find a solution for the issues filming in downtown might inflict on local businesses, members of the Rye Chamber of Commerce met Wednesday morning to discuss last week’s filming and brainstorm ideas on how to address the needs of local business owners going forward.
One idea suggested asking the city to require a higher fee from production crews, then setting aside a certain amount of money to be given to business owners who suffered a loss due to filming.
Democratic County Legislator Catherine Parker, a former Rye City councilwoman and owner of Parker’s on Purchase Street, said communication between the chamber and the city is key in order to avoid some of the feelings business owners felt after last week’s filming.
“It points out the need for good communication between the city and the Chamber of Commerce so that business owners are able to conduct business without disruption,” she said, adding that, during her tenure on the City Council, she would often pass information between the Chamber of Commerce and the City Council.