There's still time to save New York's restaurants and bars, otherwise, Gotham will be left with further unemployment and fewer places to dine in.
There's a cozy little bar and restaurant on Lexington Avenue and 38th Street in Manhattan called the Junction. It’s Irish-owned and not too far from the Irish Voice office, but walking by it is quite sad.
The streamers from St. Patrick’s Day merriment that never took place still hang outside. “Slainte! It’s St. Patrick’s Day…May the Luck of the Irish Be With You,” the flags say, a promotion sponsored by Jameson whiskey.
The venue itself is boarded up and lonely looking. A sign in a window says, “Unfortunately the demand is just not there for takeout and delivery & we are closing our doors until further notice. This ship’s not sunk yet. We WILL be back with a vengeance!”
Oh, how we hope so. The Junction is far from alone in closing its doors due to COVID-19 safety restrictions. Walk around any neighborhood in the city and you’ll see plenty of shuttered storefronts and piled high bags of trash which is a whole other story.
Our beloved Manhattan, city of dreams for so many, got the stuffing knocked out of it thanks to COVID. It needs a good wash and a good game plan helmed by an innovative, can-do leader who will recognize what we lost, figure out how we can get it back, and make our jewel even shinier.
In fairness, some steps have been taken to breathe life back into Gotham. Stores are open, gyms have opened, office buildings are open even though many are still working from home, and hair salons are once again grooming customers. All the openings obviously have social distancing, mask requirements, and some capacity restrictions in place and everything seems to be going according to plan.
How wonderful it would have been if the same consideration had been given months ago to the bars and restaurants of New York’s five boroughs which, until this week, have had to survive on takeout and outdoor dining, with many of them not able to provide either.
This week they can open their doors to indoor diners at 25 percent capacity. It’s too little too late, after months of closed doors and bills continuing to pile up.
Governor Andrew Cuomo, no doubt, did a superb job in the early days of the COVID-19 crisis. He provided steady leadership and told us daily what we had to do to fight the enemy in the air.
So how come he can’t properly explain why New York City’s hospitality industry got shafted while the rest of the state’s establishments were allowed to open up for indoor and outdoor dining back in June?
It would be great to know why he considers Westchester County safer for dining than the Bronx. That’s a particularly relevant question for the Irish restaurant owners in Woodlawn (the Bronx) whose customers can take a three-minute walk to McLean Avenue in Yonkers (Westchester) and indoor dine to their heart’s content.
The bad news? Much damage has been done, with many bars and restaurants forced to close up shop for good because they had no other choice.
The good news? There’s still time to save those that are left.
Make no mistake, if the city’s restaurant industry isn’t given priority by Governor Cuomo – we’ll leave Mayor Bill de Blasio aside because he thinks indoor dining is yet another unfair case of the haves vs. the have-nots – there aren’t going to be many places to dine in when we emerge from the COVID-19 storm.
And the tens of thousands of unemployed as a result? Where will they go? What will they do?
The governor should meet with a group of bar and restaurant owners, many of whom respectfully rallied outside his office on Monday to plead for help before they drown. Having a spokesperson issue a statement saying that the owners haven’t been “paying attention,” as happened last week, is a gross insult.
Oh, they’ve been paying attention all right. They’re constantly trying to juggle the bills and make the math work which requires total focus.
Perhaps they’d have more time to pay attention if the city gave them a break on their tax bills. As if.
Governor Cuomo, don’t govern from the mountaintop. Establishments big and small, like the Junction and so many others, are counting on you to help get the federal Restaurants Bill passed which will provide funding, but in the meantime, moving up to 50 percent indoor capacity pronto will help.