“It is painfully clear that without financial assistance, the restaurant industry in New York state could collapse,” association President Melissa Fleischut said.
About 55% of restaurants that said they’re likely to close don’t think they can even make it until November, according to the survey.
Restaurant trade groups have been vocal about the strife facing the industry, part of a pressure campaign meant to persuade city, state and federal officials to make more accommodations for the industry, which has been pummeled during the pandemic. In previous surveys, the association has found around 90% of restaurants have laid off or furloughed employees during the crisis.
The association used the new survey findings as an opportunity to call for commercial-rent relief, indoor dining in New York City and increased capacity for indoor dining throughout the state.
But months of calls for rent assistance have not yielded aid from the federal or state government. And New York City remains closed to indoor dining, even though restaurants elsewhere in the state are open at limited capacity.
Frustration in the industry is palpable. “The walls are kind of closing in, and it’s really a moment of do or die,” Mazumdar said. He said revenues are down by 70% at his restaurants and he has laid off half his staff. Indoor dining will be a deciding factor in whether he can stay open come winter, he said.
Some momentum might be building. As of Wednesday, restaurants have one of the most powerful names in city politics on their side: City Council Speaker Cory Johnson, who said it is time to allow some indoor dining in the city.
Even if New York allows indoor dining, restaurants likely would need to operate at a fraction of full capacity at first. There’s still no guarantee that restaurants could make rent.
“Give me a million seats, doesn’t matter. There’s no people,” said Tommy Greco, owner of K Rico, a steakhouse in Hell’s Kitchen. “Real restaurant people, there’s the love for what we do, and then there’s blindness with regards to our business sense.
“Sometimes,” Greco said, “we do things that aren’t smart business. And one of them would be trying to grind this out where it doesn’t make sense.”
He said he is operating at 18% of the revenue he is accustomed to.
Asked whether he has considered closing, he said, “I consider it every single day.”