The struggling restaurants in New York City have given up hope that they can double their interior seating The Post learned of Albany on November 1 amid rising infection rates and radio silence.
Restaurant owners and lobbyists say they heard from Governor Cuomo Zilch about his promise to consider increasing indoor restaurant capacity by the end of this month. That silence has made them unable to plan – and prepare for another wave of closings.
“I think we should have heard by now if the indoor dining area would be expanded until November 1st. People need time to prepare, ”said restaurant consultant Donny Evans.
“Restaurateurs are scared,” added Evans. “Without expanded indoor dining, there will be a tsunami of closings.”
Indoor dining in NYC Launched for the first time in six months on September 30th at 25 percent capacity. According to restaurant owners, this is not enough to keep them in business when it gets too cold for outdoor dining.
But many went further anyway when Cuomo promised on Sept. 25 to increase indoor capacity to 50 percent by Nov. 1 if infection rates remained constant.
The seven-day moving average of coronavirus cases in the city at that point was 882, according to Worldometers.com. Now it’s 1,665, or roughly double, as the city is dealing with spikes in nine zip codes that have already been forced to roll back its reopening efforts .
Still, restaurateurs say they want answers.
“What annoys me the most is that Cuomo is not giving us any direction for the future,” said restaurant consultant Rick Camac, operations manager of Tribeca’s kitchen. “All of us who thought November 1st would happen, spent money to prepare for it. The reopening is chargeable. Will some restaurants go out of business now? Absolutely.”
The governor’s office did not immediately return a request for comment.
Andrew Rigie, of the New York Hospitality Alliance, said his organization is now pushing for the governor’s office to increase indoor capacity to 50 percent minus the red zones to help city restaurants survive the winter.
“We advocate 50 percent utilization in areas outside the red zone with possible changes in the yellow and orange areas,” said Rigie. “Outside of these zones, infection rates remain low, so we hope we can safely climb to 50 percent like the rest of the state,” he said, citing a national average of 1.2 percent “excluding the red zones.”
“Restaurants will continue to close even when they are 50 percent, but it’s still more helpful than just 25 percent.”
Selwyn Chan, co-owner of Chikarashi Isso, says he has no plans to reopen its Rector Street location until indoor restaurant capacity is 50 percent. It just doesn’t make financial sense, he said.
The 25 percent capacity is a joke. That would have meant 18 seats for us, ”said Chan about the gourmet restaurant, which has no outside seating.
To pay the bills, Chikarashi Isso opened an outdoor pop-up at the 50 Bowery Hotel last month. It’s a ten-seat counter on the hotel terrace on the second floor, where Chef Atsushi Kono prepares a 13-course yakitori omakase menu for USD 150 per person.
“Our current strategy is to get by with the limited external external pop-up window and wait for 50 percent capacity before we reopen our actual restaurant space,” said Chan.
Still, he’s not sure how long he can hold out. While his landlord has forgiven so far, “this can’t last forever,” he said.
And as soon as it opens again, Chan sees “a shot to make it work”.
“If a second wave turns us off, it will be the nail in the coffin,” he said.