COVID-19

Indoor dining returns to New York, but is it too late for some places?

Erika Beras Sep 10, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace Morning Report
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A restaurant offers outdoor dining as the city continues Phase 4 of re-opening following restrictions imposed to slow the spread of coronavirus on Aug. 22, 2020 in New York City. Cindy Ord/Getty Images
COVID-19

Indoor dining returns to New York, but is it too late for some places?

Erika Beras Sep 10, 2020
A restaurant offers outdoor dining as the city continues Phase 4 of re-opening following restrictions imposed to slow the spread of coronavirus on Aug. 22, 2020 in New York City. Cindy Ord/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

New Yorkers will not need to weather the cold to eat at a restaurant. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said yesterday that restaurants can reopen for indoor dining at the end of the month.

But the classic New York dining experience – elbow to elbow – will not be returning. Restaurants can only operate at 25% capacity.

Even in normal times, running a profitable restaurant in New York City is tough. Margins are thin and there are lots of costs, such as labor, food and high rents.

Now, add personal protective equipment and reduce your seating to 25%. 

“For many places that’s not going to be enough to make the return to business profitable,” said Christopher Muller, former hospitality professor at Boston University.

But, it’s a step in the right direction, said Melissa Fleischut, president of the New York State Restaurant Association.

“If you have a robust takeout and delivery currently, if outdoor dining has been working well for you, this will be an additional piece to help you build back,” she said.

Before the pandemic, New York City restaurants generated about $25 billion a year in revenue. Alex Susskind, a professor at Cornell University said other industries feed off the restaurant business, adding that “it’s important for tourism. It’s important for the lodging business, it’s important for everything.”

And he said, if restaurants can make a comeback, then the city can begin to recover.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

Are people still waiting for unemployment payments?

Yes. There is no way to know exactly how many people have been waiting for months and are still not getting unemployment, because states do not have a good system in place for tracking that kind of data, according to Andrew Stettner of The Century Foundation. But by his own calculations, only about 60% of people who have applied for benefits are currently receiving them. That means there are millions still waiting. Read more here on what they are doing about it.

Are we going to see another wave of grocery store shortages?

Well, public health officials are warning that we could see a second wave of the virus before the end of the year. And this time retailers want to be prepared if there’s high demand for certain products. But they can’t rely totally on predictive modeling. People’s shopping habits have ebbed and flowed depending on the state of COVID-19 cases or lockdowns. So, grocers are going to have to trust their guts.

What’s going to happen to retailers, especially with the holiday shopping season approaching?

A report out Tuesday from the accounting consultancy BDO USA said 29 big retailers filed for bankruptcy protection through August. And if bankruptcies continue at that pace, the number could rival the bankruptcies of 2010, after the Great Recession. For retailers, the last three months of this year will be even more critical than usual for their survival as they look for some hope around the holidays.

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