New York City’s struggling restaurants have given up hope that they will be allowed to double their indoor seating on Nov. 1 amid rising infection rates and radio silence from Albany, The Post has learned.
Restaurant owners and lobbyists say they’ve heard zilch from Gov. Cuomo on his promise to consider increasing indoor dining capacity by the end of this month. That silence has left them unable to plan — and bracing for another wave of closures.
“I think we would have heard by now if indoor dining was going to expand by November first. People need time to prepare,” said restaurant consultant Donny Evans.
“Restaurateurs are scared,” Evans added. “Without expanded indoor dining, there will be a tsunami of closings.”
Indoor dining in NYC launched for the first time in six months on Sept. 30 at 25 percent capacity, which restaurant owners say isn’t enough to keep them in business once it gets too cold for outdoor dining.
But many moved forward anyway on Cuomo’s Sept. 25 vow to look at raising indoor capacity to 50 percent by Nov. 1 if infection rates remained steady.
The seven-day moving average of coronavirus cases across the city at the time was 882, according to Worldometers.com. Now it’s 1,665, or roughly double, as the city deals with spikes across nine zip codes that have already been forced to pare back their reopening efforts.
Still, restaurateurs say they want answers.
“What angers me the most is that Cuomo doesn’t give us direction for the future,” said restaurant consultant Rick Camac, director of operations for Tribeca’s Kitchen. “All of us who thought Nov. 1 was happening spent money getting ready for it. There is a cost to reopen. Will some restaurants now be going out of business? Absolutely.”
The Governor’s office didn’t 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 in a last-ditch effort to help city restaurants survive the winter.
“We are advocating for 50 percent occupancy in non-red-zone areas, with potential modifications in yellow and orange zones,” Rigie said. “Outside of those zones, the infection rates remain low, so we’re hopeful we can safely increase to 50 percent like the rest of the state,” he said, citing a statewide average of 1.2 percent “without the red zones”
“Restaurants will continue to close even with 50 percent occupancy but it’s still more helpful than only having 25 percent.”
Selwyn Chan, co-owner of Chikarashi Isso, says he doesn’t plan to reopen his Rector Street location until indoor dining capacity is at 50 percent. It just doesn’t make financial sense, he said.
The 25 percent capacity “is a joke. For us, that would have meant 18 seats,” Chan said of the fine-dining establishment, which doesn’t have outdoor seating.
In an effort to pay the bills, Chikarashi Isso last month opened an outdoor pop-up at the Hotel 50 Bowery. It’s a ten-seat chef’s counter on the hotel’s second-floor terrace, where Chef Atsushi Kono prepares a 13-course yakitori omakase menu for $150 per person.
“Our current strategy is to get by with the limited off-site outdoor pop-up and wait for the 50-percent capacity before reopening our actual restaurant space,” Chan said.
Still, he’s not sure how long he can hold on. While his landlord has been forgiving so far, “that can’t last forever,” he said.
And once he does reopen, Chan sees “one shot to make it work.”
“If a second wave shuts us down, it will be the nail in the coffin,” he said.