Almost half of all bars and restaurants in New York City could close permanently in the next six months due to the coronavirus, according to a stunning new audit released Thursday by State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.
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The report exposes the scale of the fiscal impact of the pandemic on one of the city’s vital industries, which only saw a return to indoor dining until Wednesday – at a paltry 25% of normal capacity of seats.
“The industry is tough at the best of times, and many restaurants operate on tight margins,” DiNapoli said. “Today, they are facing an unprecedented upheaval which may result in the permanent closure of many establishments.”
Over the next semester, one-third to one-half of all bars and restaurants in town could fall past the point of no return, potentially taking more than 150,000 jobs with them, DiNapoli found.
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Nearly three-quarters of those employed in the city’s restaurant industry have already found themselves without a job at the height of the pandemic, according to the report.
In 2019, the city’s restaurant industry accounted for 317,800 jobs, paid $ 10.7 billion in wages and had more than $ 27 billion in taxable sales, according to the report.
By April, as the coronavirus gripped the city and the government mandated a nixed domestic service, employment in the sector had grown to 91,000 jobs, according to the audit.
A city initiative to expand and speed up requests for outdoor dining – recently approved as a permanent year-round program – has helped push the number of jobs to 174,000 by August, a found DiNapoli.
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Forty-three percent of the city’s restaurants and bars had been granted outdoor seating permits as early as the first week of September, according to the report.
This included half of establishments in Manhattan, over 40% in Brooklyn and Queens, 30% in the Bronx, and 20% in Staten Island.
But the city’s restaurants remain on the brink with the financial hole dug in the past six months, the current 25% indoor capacity limit – with cooler temperatures on the horizon – and the possibility of a resurgence. coronavirus is very much at stake.
New York’s minority communities have been and will continue to be the hardest hit, according to the report.
In 2018, about 60% of restaurant workers living in the city were immigrants, including 44% Hispanic and 20% Asian, according to the report.
“It is important that the state and the city continue to be creative and strengthen the industry,” said DiNapoli. “The city’s decision to expand outdoor dining year-round to help keep restaurants afloat is a step in the right direction with the opening for indoor dining.”
Shu Chowdhury, catering operations expert and managing partner of business incubator and investment firm Bowery Engine, agreed the measures are a good start – but more needs to be done.
“While 25 percent occupancy is better than nothing, it is not sustainable for the business to operate profitably,” Chowdhury said. “It is however a good start to testing safety procedures to increase capacity smoothly and safely as colder weather approaches which will reduce public interest in outdoor dining.
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“Public safety is and must remain a priority, but in the near future restaurants must be able to reopen at a minimum of 50 percent with extended hours in order to move to safe and profitable operations.”
DiNapoli’s recommendations include that the city issue clear, easy-to-understand advice to restaurants on reopening and work with the state to facilitate loans and grants to help joints keep the lights on.
The federal government, meanwhile, is expected to step up funding after the paycheck protection program closed in August, DiNapoli said.
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