If you thought restaurateurs were unhappy about New York’s 10 p.m. dining curfew, you should see their customers. Big Apple eatery owners say revenues dropped by roughly 30 percent over the weekend
If you thought restaurateurs were unhappy about New York’s 10 p.m. dining curfew, you should see their customers.
Big Apple eatery owners say revenues dropped by roughly 30 percent over the weekend as they were forced to comply with the governor’s latest efforts to rein in rising coronavirus cases.
Adding to their misery — they’ve been turned into bouncers who are forced to kick customers out at 10 p.m. on the dot or risk onerous $10,000 fines. It’s been challenging, they say, to have to remind New Yorkers that the city that never sleeps now winds down just as the 10 o’clock news is getting started.
“It’s not easy to get people to leave,” said Erin Bellard, owner of e’s BAR on the Upper West Side. “We tell them they have to leave by 10 p.m. but it’s definitely awkward. There’s always a couple of people who push back. We try to be hospitable but it’s like we are herding people out — we just can’t risk a $10,000 fine. We are struggling to stay afloat.”
“It’s not easy to get people to leave … there’s always a couple of people who push back.” -Erin Bellard, owner of e’s BAR
In order to cope with the changes, e’s BAR plans to start opening earlier on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays for brunch. But she also frets whether it will work for an eatery that caters to late-night crowds seeking “lots of burgers and beer and first dates.”
“That’s a big loss for us,” said Bellard, who was previously full around 10 p.m. with 27 people inside and another 27 people outside.
Prior to the 10 p.m. curfew, restaurants had been permitted to stay open outdoors until 11 p.m. and indoors until midnight. They were also allowed to let customers linger a half hour or so to finish their meals and pay the bills.
The curfew comes with a hard deadline that’s forcing restaurants to shutter their kitchen as early as 9 p.m. or 9:30, squeezing even the 8 p.m. dinner hour and crushing workers’ pay.
“Now our last reservation is at 8 p.m.,” said Garry Kanfer, owner of Japanese eatery Kissaki on Bowery. “At 9:45 p.m., the check drops and they are out by 10 p.m. People are leaving but they’re upset, even though they know it’s not our fault. One diner called to tell me his party would have ordered more food, but there wasn’t enough time.”
Kanfer’s Kissaki, which has outposts on the Upper West Side and Long Island City, suffered a 30 percent loss in revenue over the weekend — as did Tao Group, which owns Tao and Lavo restaurants, which are now taking reservations no later than 8:30 p.m.
“We are getting killed,” said Noah Tepperburg, co-founder of the Tao Group, which owns Tao and Lavo restaurants. “They are just hurting people who are already hurting, throwing out a curfew without giving anyone time to prepare.”
“Our staff were coming in from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. Now they’re working 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.,” Tepperburg added.
Cuomo’s curfew kicked off Nov. 13 and applies to all restaurants with a waitstaff, establishments that serve alcohol and fitness centers. It was aimed to curb gathering in establishments that have proven to be COVID hotspots as cases rise.
Still, restaurateurs argue that limiting their hours only squeezes more people into indoor spaces instead of spreading them out. They also take issue with the governor’s reasoning that the curfew would help NY avoid spillover from neighboring states that have enacted their own 10 p.m. deadlines.
“It puts us in a weird position, like parents telling kids to hurry up and finish their dessert.” -James Mallios, owner of Greek restaurant Amali
“I heard scuttlebutt about matching NJ and CT because of interstate travel for dining, which seems tenuous, but sure, I guess it’s possible in hotspots like Bedford, NY? People running from Darien, CT to Bedford to eat an hour later?” quipped James Mallios, owner of Greek restaurant Amali in midtown and Bar Marseilles in the Rockaways.
“It’s not like it’s last call and they can stay. It puts us in a weird position, like parents telling kids to hurry up and finish their dessert.”
Mallio, who also saw sales decline by 30 percent over the weekend, notes that the biggest impact will be on waiters, busboys, chefs and other kitchen workers.
“My guys are freaking out. They have kids to feed. It’s the first thing we thought of when the curfew was announced,” Mallios said, adding that he might introduce a rolling furlough, and that some restaurant workers may be better off on unemployment. “If restaurants shut down altogether, the unemployment insurance system may crash again, so people might be better off filing now. The last time people waited up to three months for their checks.”