The Unique Way HAGS Plans To Reinvent Fine Dining In NYC

Restaurants witnessed big changes during the pandemic as lockdowns were announced and people had to quarantine in their homes, opting for home delivery from their favorite eateries instead. For a New York-based couple, Telly Justice and Camille Lindsley, the pandemic was an eye-opener: Both of them lost their gigs in the food industry and spent time reflecting on what was wrong with the local dining scene (via Eater).

Lindsley revealed that she realized that "horrible things are said to me and to other people all the time. Sexual harassment and assault are just rampant in this industry, and racism and homophobia are rampant as well." Meanwhile, her partner faced resistance several years ago after coming out as trans but never gave up, cooking fiercely. Justice admitted, "I wanted to be the best cook in those kitchens. And I never stopped being angry."

The couple's collective experiences motivated them to work on HAGS, an inclusive dining space that aims to reinvent fine dining in New York City. On its official website, the restaurant is described as a "tiny, intimate restaurant in NYC by queer people for all people" that will offer decadent food options. It adds that the eatery will "serve radical luxury, unapologetic joy, community, and optimistic change."

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

They're embracing an unorthodox approach

Per Eater, Telly Justice and Camille Lindsley have big plans for HAGS and want their customers to feel welcome inside the venue, which is intended to be an interactive space. Justice gave an example of what they're aiming for and said, "I hope that people are like, 'You know what, I'm going to bring my own fried chicken for the staff to eat.' " 

Also, they want their food and luxury dining to be accessible to all kinds of customers and will offer menus on a sliding scale every Sunday to achieve that goal. The couple is also considering a flexible menu in order to serve customers with "pretty much any dietary restrictions" and requests. Plus, diners will be kept in the loop and will be able to check the menu on social media every day so that they can plan in advance. Staff members are expected to "get comfortable" as well and will be spotted occasionally sitting down or dancing as they take orders at HAGS.

As for the name of the restaurant, the couple deliberately chose it after spending some time discussing different ideas (via The Infatuation). Lindsley said, "We were thinking about names that are about femininity, but that are unpopular. It's both 'have a good summer' and a slant against 'old hags,' or witchy women — so, we thought it would be fun."