The Daily Caller reports, New York City could see up to half its restaurants and bars close permanently in the next six months because of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new audit released Thursday from the New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.
“New York City’s bars and restaurants are the lifeblood of our neighborhoods. The industry is challenging under the best of circumstances and many eateries operate on tight margins. Now they face an unprecedented upheaval that may cause many establishments to close forever,” DiNapoli said, according to an official statement.
The report states that New York City’s restaurant industry had 23,650 restaurants and bars in 2019, provided 317,800 jobs, paid $10.7 billion in total wages citywide and delivered nearly $27 billion in taxable sales.
In April, as COVID safety restrictions were imposed, restaurants were forced to switch to take-out only and restaurant employment in NYC dropped to 91,000 jobs. Taxable sales for the industry also fell by 71 percent during March, April and May compared to a year earlier.
The city opened for outdoor eating in June, which led to restaurant employment rising to 174,000 jobs in August, per the report. That number is only half of what was seen in 2019.
NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio announced he was extending outdoor dining all year round, while indoor dining opened for the first time in September since their closing in March. However, indoor seating guidelines are strict, limiting capacity to 25%, according to CBS.
“Twenty five percent is not going to cut it. That’s 15 people in here,” Aki Iliopoulos, owner of the Staten Island Diner, told CBS. “It’s in the negative. Every day, we’re in the negative.”
Queens Chamber of Commerce President Tom Grech told CBS the capacity limit will not “sustain the business.”
“Twenty five percent was a great start. It will not sustain the business. It will not sustain the industry.”