A Big Apple bar owner is bowing out — and banking on Bitcoin with what could be the first cryptocurrency-only restaurant sale in the US.
This week, Patrick Hughes put his side-by-side Hell’s Kitchen watering holes, Hellcat Annie’s and Scruffy Duffy’s, up for sale. The price tag: 25 Bitcoins or 800 Ethereum tokens for both, a value of about $875,000 by current cryptocurrency prices.
“Crypto is on fire, it’s a hot currency,” said Hughes, 56, a Queens native who now resides in Ho-Ho-Kus, NJ, and whose family has been in the Manhattan bar business since 1970. “It’s decentralized. It’s global.”
Fueled by ever-increasing debt and fears of a devalued American dollar, Hughes is among countless investors, institutions and everyday Americans who see cryptocurrency as a legit alternative to the dollar.
NFL offensive tackle Russell Okung just had his demand to be paid in Bitcoin fulfilled by the Carolina Panthers. PayPal introduced a crypto exchange late last year. And federal regulators this week began allowing banks to settle transactions in cryptocurrencies.
The sale of Hellcat Annie’s and Scruffy Duffy’s could mark a new chapter in crypto ascendancy.
“I’m not aware of any other bars or restaurants that have been sold for crypto only,” said Charles Cascarilla, CEO of Paxos Trust Company, which specializes in cryptocurrency infrastructure. “But more and more people look at crypto as a monetary instrument. We’re really at a tipping point of its acceptance.”
Before the pandemic, Hughes employed 50 people at his two establishments. He’s now down to “five or six” but said he has survived better than many, largely by remaining closed throughout most of 2020.
“I played golf, read books, worked on the house and taught myself how to make cartoons,” said Hughes, who launched a Scruffy Duffy’s YouTube channel to display his animated videos. He hopes to continue with the art form once he and his wife, with whom he has three kids, move down South if the bars sell.
He reopened Hellcat Annie’s in November, complete with an open-air cabin on Tenth Avenue, and said that bar sales are nearly back to pre-pandemic levels. Scruffy Duffy’s remains closed pending the return of indoor dining. (Hughes and a partner opened Scruffy’s on Eighth Avenue in 1990, then Hughes alone moved it to the current location in 2019. Hughes relaunched Annie’s in 2009, after running it as Pony Bar for eight years.)
Hughes laments the suffering the shutdown caused for so many of his friends in the industry, but said the crisis cemented his pre-pandemic desire to get out of the business.
“I’m hoping to catch one of these crypto dudes who always wanted to own a bar,” said Hughes, noting that he has put a sign out front to lure in curious potential buyers.
Not everyone is sold on crypto just yet, though.
“I don’t think the dollar is going anywhere anytime soon,” said NYC real estate appraiser Henry Salmon, president of Equity Valuation Associates. “The dollar on the world market still has a lot of value.”
Hughes said he has received a few casual inquiries. But he’s confident he’s on the right side of history.
“The next crisis, you won’t have to run out and buy toilet paper,” he said. “You can just use your dollars instead.”