1,300 New York City bars and restaurants have already closed permanently due to the decimating effects of the covid-19 pandemic, and many more are still on the brink. But with the announcement that New York City will once again allow indoor seating, there’s new hope as winter approaches, albeit with a side dish of frustration.
New York City and its five boroughs will allow restaurants to reopen indoor dining beginning September 30th, 2020. Unfortunately for restaurants, initial plans include 25% seating capacity during the first phase, and no bar service. There’s also a midnight curfew, which puts a little damper on the “city that never sleeps” thing.
You’ll once again be able to dine mask free indoors, but if you get up from your table, you’ll need to don a mask. Fortunately for owners and customers alike, no bar service doesn’t mean “no drinks”, it just means you’ll need someone to bring you one to a seated location.
If initial reopening phases go well without a significant rise in covid-19 worries, officials plan to double seating capacity, allowing restaurants and bars to add back 50% of their previous capacity from November. For many bar and restaurant owners, the response is a welcomed beginning to the equation, but not nearly enough.
Will it save New York’s restaurants and bars? Maybe some.
Eater ran a fantastic article, with responses to the plans from city hospitality business owners, which varied from positive to downright angry. Some restaurants simply have more access to outdoor seating to subsidize the 25% indoor business, while others have none, and smaller restaurants will be worse for the wear than larger spaces, with the limited seating.
The fast paced need to refurb and secure all indoor dining rooms to city specifications with just weeks of notice brings financial strain to already strapped businesses, as does hiring, or rehiring extra staff, with the fair chance that the city could shut indoor dining down just weeks later creates an awkward working environment, should cases rise.
Restaurants have traditionally always survived on takings from the bar, with slim margins on food, particularly in New York where produce costs are among the highest in the United States. With limited seating, no bar service and midnight curfews, many places will struggle, even if seating moves beyond 50%.
For New Yorkers, people who want to visit New York and the restaurant owners which give the city life and a sense of place, it’s better than nothing. Officials find themselves with the unenviable task of attempting to avoid second waves, while also facing mass exodus of business and industry due to lack of opportunity.
If you’ve been thinking of eating out lately, there’s never been a better time to support local restaurants.