New York City is reopening, kind of. Starting Friday, restaurants will be allowed to seat diners indoors at 35% capacity.
Next week, movie theaters, which have been closed for nearly a year, will reopen at 25% capacity.
But in the city that never sleeps, are New Yorkers ready to venture back out for entertainment and dinner?
For many restaurants, dealing with the pandemic the last year has been a nightmare. A survey by the New York City Hospitality Alliance found that 92% of restaurants could not afford to pay their rent in December.
Andrew Rigie, executive director of the alliance, said that while he welcomes the expanded indoor seating, “pre-pandemic it was tough enough to survive when they had 100% occupancy in a good economy.” And now, Rigie said, “35% percent is not enough. So many restaurateurs say they need at least 50%.”
As for movie theaters, those “that have opened are not getting the crowds they expected,” said professor Arun Sharma at the University of Miami.
Sharma added there are two main factors: “No. 1, because people are cautious about going to public gatherings, and No. 2, there’s not enough good movies coming out.”
But there is pent-up demand and cash. Despite the unemployment crisis, a lot of people who have not lost their jobs have not been spending money. There hasn’t been anywhere to spend it.
Professor Alex Susskind at Cornell University, who studies the restaurant industry, believes that age groups who love their food delivery apps may feel less pressure to go out.
“I think the millennials and the Gen Z folks are going to be slower to coming back to restaurants. And folks like me, Gen X and the boomers, we miss restaurants,” Susskind said.
But 51-year-old Amanda Whidden from Brooklyn said there is no way she’s going out for a bite, a drink or a flick until she gets vaccinated against COVID-19.
“I know people who’ve had it [the virus] who, last spring, who still haven’t gotten lung function back all the way,” she explained. “And I’m just not willing to roll this dice.”
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