New York City is home to some of the world's most iconic restaurants and chefs, but the industry faces an unclear path in the absence of a long-term plan during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Other Side Of The COVID-19 Curve: New York City was among the hardest-hit regions globally in the COVID-19 pandemic, and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo suggested the virus peaked in April.
Yet after months on the other side of the pandemic curve, New York City restaurants are still forbidden from operating indoor dining.
New York City restaurants were given permission to operate indoor dining on July 6, but the decision has been indefinitely put on pause. On Aug. 25, Mayor Bill de Blasio hinted that restaurants may be banned from welcoming guests indoors until next year.
"If folks miss the theater, if they miss indoor dining, those things will be back," de Blasio said, according to Eater New York. "They'll be back next year at some point. I think that is overwhelmingly the case."
At the same time, schools, museums, gyms, bowling alleys and other industries synonymous with being indoors are allowed to operate with certain restrictions, the NYC Hospitality Alliance said in a recent press release.
Time Isn't On Restaurants' Side: Restaurants are taking full advantage of outdoor dining, but the summer days are coming to an end.
If indoor dining doesn't resume by mid-September, experts are "predicting a death knell" for the industry.
New York restaurants outside of The Big Apple have been given permission to open their dining rooms at 50% capacity since June.
The NYC Hospitality Alliance surveyed nearly 500 restaurant and bar owners and operators across the city and found 83% were unable to pay full commercial rent in July.
Some 200,000 people who were employed at a bar or restaurant in March are now out of work. Even more will lose their jobs if indoor dining does not return in the near term.
"Our industry's survival over the next several months depends on government immediately developing and implementing a plan that allows restaurants in New York City to safely reopen indoors like our counterparts everywhere else in the state," Andrew Rigie, executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance, said in a statement.
The Industry's Demands: The NYC Hospitality Alliance is calling on government officials to present an immediate plan allowing indoor dining in New York City. The group is also asking for an extension of a moratorium on evictions, an extension of the suspension of personal liability guarantees in leases, a pause on commercial rent taxes, rent relief and an extension of small businesses cash grants.
Why Does Location Matter? Restaurant owners expressed their frustration during an NYC Hospitality Alliance presentation earlier this month.
George Constantinou, owner of Bogota Latin Bistro, Miti Miti and Medusa in Brooklyn, said "location shouldn't make any difference."
If a restaurant in upstate New York can open and operate safely, a restaurant in Brooklyn can do the same, he said.
"50% capacity is 50% capacity."
Ignoring one particular location could lead to thousands of small businesses closing, said Tren'ness Woods-Black, owner of Sylvia's in Harlem.
This is particularly true for Black-owned restaurants that have been "financially crushed by the pandemic," she said.
Losing It All: New York City welcomes millions of tourists from all over the world every year and is widely considered the global "culinary capital," said Alfonso Zhicay, owner of Casa de Chef in Queens.
"From every corner of the globe, individuals come to start their own businesses in New York City or visit to enjoy the culture and life that it offers. That's what so many of our restaurants represent, and if the government can't soon provide us a clear reopening plan, we risk losing it all."