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Coronavirus lockdown: 'It would end us,' says New York City restaurant owner

Sibile Marcellus
·Reporter
·3 min read

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s attempt to contain the spread of the coronavirus by imposing a 10 pm curfew on restaurants last week has had a chilling effect on the industry.

Winter is coming and many restaurants already running low on cash are struggling to stay open amid already stringent dining and social distancing restrictions.

Nearly two-thirds of restaurants in New York state will likely close at the end of 2020 unless government aid materializes, according to the New York Restaurant Association.

“It makes me feel like we’re just as out of control as we were eight months ago when [the coronavirus pandemic] started. It just feels like there’s impending doom,” Amanda Cohen, chef and owner of Dirt Candy, a restaurant in New York City, told Yahoo Finance.

New York City is a former coronavirus hotspot averaging roughly 5,000 cases per day at the height of the crisis in mid-April. While the city managed to contain the virus in the spring, the average number of cases per day has increased 89% over the past week to an average of 1,360 cases per day as of Nov. 12, compared to the average two weeks prior.

New York City was a ‘ghost town’

The 10 pm curfew is a huge burden that will take a massive financial toll on the restaurant industry and lead to more layoffs, says Cohen.

“I think some restaurants are probably going to try to open a little bit earlier,” said Cohen. “But in general...if you’re only serving at nighttime, you have basically four hours to make all your money. That’s not enough. We used to be an industry that could make all our money in seven or eight hours at night.”

Cohen says New York City seems empty as restaurants have struggled to stay open amid 25% capacity limitations on indoor dining.

Photo by: STRF/STAR MAX/IPx 2020 10/9/20 Restaurants continue to expand and improve their outdoor dining areas with street closures plants, stuffed animals, space heaters and other decorative items. Currently New York City only allows 25% capacity for indoor dining during the Phase 4 reopening of restaurants in New York City.
Photo by: STRF/STAR MAX/IPx 2020 10/9/20 Restaurants continue to expand and improve their outdoor dining areas with street closures plants, stuffed animals, space heaters and other decorative items. Currently New York City only allows 25% capacity for indoor dining during the Phase 4 reopening of restaurants in New York City.

“I was walking home last night...and it’s 8:30 on a Thursday night, and that’s a pretty popular time in New York City. Every single restaurant was empty and everybody’s patio was empty. The city was a ghost town,” said Cohen.

As much as New Yorkers may love to eat out, many draw the line at sitting outside in the cold. “People are staying inside. They don’t want to come out,” Cohen said. “And more and more employees are going to get put back on unemployment, and more and more restaurants are going to close without the federal aid.”

‘Another lockdown, I have no money left to my name’

The pandemic has forced one in six restaurants in the U.S. to close, according to analysis by the National Restaurant Association.

The Independent Restaurant Coalition has called on Congress to establish a $120 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund to save the industry. While the Restaurants Act which would create that fund has garnered bipartisan support, it’s stuck in the same Washington gridlock as other potential forms of financial relief.

Amid the surge in coronavirus cases across the country, Biden coronavirus advisor Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center of Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, told Yahoo Finance recently that a national lockdown for four to six weeks could help contain the coronavirus pandemic.

Cohen warned that another shutdown could deal the final blow to the restaurant industry.

“It would end us. If we don’t get some sort of federal aid along with that lockdown, you’re not going to see restaurants open back up after that,” said Cohen who is on the advisory board of the IRC. “I won’t be able to sustain it. I’ve been around for 12 years. Another lockdown, I have no money left to my name.”

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