NYC restaurants fear devastation as new restrictions loom

By The Associated Press and WCBS Newsradio 880

NEW YORK (AP) — An industry group says renewing pandemic restrictions on indoor dining in New York City could deal a crippling financial blow to restaurants and their workers.

The NYC Hospitality Alliance made the plea for financial support as coronavirus infections surge.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday that he expected the state to impose restrictions in the city in December that would limit restaurants to outdoor dining.

Restaurants were among the hardest-hit businesses when New York City emerged as a pandemic hot spot in March.

The alliance says nearly 150,000 industry employees are out of work, and another shutdown could result in 90,000 New Yorkers possibly losing their jobs again.

The alliance had not seen any contact tracing data showing that indoor dining, which resumed this fall under tight restrictions, is causing recent infections, executive director Andrew Rigie said.

"(A)nd thus struggling small business owners and their employees should not be the left holding the bag as a default reaction without being justly compensated,'' Rigie said in a statement.

Greg David, economics contributor at The City, said 100,000 restaurant industry jobs have been gained since the low point in March, April and May, but if indoor dining shuts down again, most of those jobs will be lost.

David told WCBS 880's Steve Scott that a restaurant owner who has establishments in the Rockaways and Manhattan had only one restaurant open doing takeout during the shutdown.

"He's brought back 150 people, they're all probably going to be laid off again," David said. "By the way, if we have a really severe shutdown, it's not just restaurants of course. Are retailers going to stay open? Are they going to be able to serve customers at what is of course the most crucial selling season of the year that would be another blow as well."

The loss of indoor dining, coupled with less people dining outdoors during the winter months, could mean the permanent closure of about half the city's restaurants.

"That may be too high, but it's clear we are going to lose a significant number of restaurants," David said.

Manhattan restaurants appear to have been hit the hardest because of high rent, loss of tourism as well as the loss of people going to work.

"We're pretty sure it's true that restaurants in the boroughs that are both in commercial and near residential areas are holding on better. Some of them say they've had a couple of really good months between the combination of outdoor dining and some indoor dining," David said. "Of course everybody's going to be hurt if indoor dining is prohibited and if it's really cold and I'm not sure we know whether people are really willing to be in the semi-enclosed tents that have now gone up outside many restaurants in the city."

WCBS 880 contributed to this report