When the MTA earlier this year asked Francois Latapie, the owner of a new Upper East Side restaurant, to help promote the long-awaited Second Avenue subway, he gladly agreed.
In ads on many Q trains, Latapie is quoted: “Any business owner will tell you that an increase in traffic is always an increase in business, so it’s a dream come true.”
But the dream turned into a nightmare for Latapie’s Little Frog, a charming new French-inspired bistro at 322 E. 86th St. between First and Second avenues, a few doors east of the new station.
Just months after the MTA swiftly cleared construction debris following the Q line’s Jan. 1 opening, its crews returned without warning in mid-June to rebuild and widen the blockfront sidewalk in front of his 75-seat eatery.
The obstacles are now much worse than before — and Little Frog’s business is reeling as a result.
“We knew [the sidewalk job] would result in a drop in business, but we didn’t expect it to be at least 50 percent,” Latapie told The Post.
A double row of chain-link fences — at the curb and into the street — makes the block’s stores and cafés reachable only by a narrow sidewalk passageway. Little Frog can’t be seen at all from across the street.
As if that’s not enough, several lampposts, removed for construction, have yet to be relit — making the site scarily dark at night.
A construction tangle can be deadly to a new eatery — and even to a well-established one that’s long been a neighborhood favorite.
Mary Silva, who for 25 years has owned popular Mexican café Maz Mezcal a few doors west of Little Frog, said she and Latapie have been given runarounds as to when the work will be finished.
The MTA told The Post it will be done by the end of August.
Meanwhile, Maz Mezcal is taking a beating, too. Silva calls the current construction “worse than the blasting, jackhammering and garbage” her place endured during years of subway tunneling.
The sidewalk work “is finishing off business completely that, at first, it only weakened,” she said. “The double fence has killed us.”
It cost $1.2 million to open Little Frog last October. Latapie can only shake his head at the twist in its fate.
A veteran of the rough-and-tumble restaurant scene — he previously ran La Goulue, owned bistro Lyon and was operations director for the Bagatelle Group — Latapie knew Little Frog’s location posed challenges.