Could coronavirus-prompted subway closures further impact future bar, restaurant business?
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Bars and restaurants in New York City could feel the effects of an order to stop running subway trains so that cars can be disinfected during the early morning hours in their bottom lines, but the order is necessary for now, according to some restaurants experts.
Melissa Fleischut, president and CEO of the New York State Restaurant Association, told FOX Business that while the halt in trains is something the association will be keeping an eye on, the association's main focus right now is that workers stay safe and public transportation is properly cleaned.
“Honestly, for us long-term, subways being [shutdown] between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. could be a problem, but right now, I think the bigger concern is making sure that they are cleaned regularly and that employees feel safe taking public transportation to come to work,” she told FOX Business on Tuesday.
New York City hospitality has been devastated by COVID-19-related restrictions largely put in place through the state’s PAUSE order, which has temporarily shuttered non-essential businesses.
Bars and restaurants, classified as “essential," have been allowed to stay open, but with stringent limitations, such as that they offer only pick-up and delivery-only options and that they maintain proper social distancing requirements. For many, temporarily closing down was the cheaper option as business dwindled.
Concern over whether the novel coronavirus-prompted subway shutdown could further negatively effect the nightlife business in the city that never sleeps once bars and restaurants are given the green-light to reopen was raised recently by a New York Post columnist.
Nicole Gelinas, of the Post called the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s statement that 24/7 subway service would resume “when customer demand returns," backward because “riders won’t come back unless they know there’s a train,” she wrote.
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“Consider the signal the state and city are sending to New York’s theater, nightlife and restaurant industry with this move. If you try to open up soon, your workers and customers will have no cheap, safe way to get home,” Gelinas writes. “That isn’t just if they leave a bar at 1:30 a.m. Closures will compress ridership into the 11 p.m. and midnight hours, crowding less reliable trains when people need space.”
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But Fleischut said the state restaurant association estimated that 527,000 of the 660,000 people employed in restaurants in New York state in February have since been furloughed, so whether workers feel safe taking public transportation is “a real concern” among the association’s employer members, Fleischut said Tuesday.
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“It’s more important that they’re cleaned regularly and everybody feels safe going to work,” she said. “I would say at this point we’re far more concerned with all the things that need to happen to get us to the place where we can even have a restaurant and bar business.”
Andrew Rigie, executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance, had a similar take on the concern.
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“We’ll defer to the transportation experts as to what the best approach is to managing the subways,” Rigie wrote in an emailed statement. “We just hope the trains will be fully operational by the time late-night restaurants, bars and clubs are permitted to reopen, so workers and customers can travel the same way they did pre-pandemic, which will be essential to our recovery.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.