Nine New York City neighborhoods are at risk of having to shut down both indoor and outdoor dining due to rising COVID-19 cases, according to a Sunday press briefing from Mayor Bill de Blasio. Pending approval from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, NYC will close schools and nonessential businesses in those nine zip codes, which are in Brooklyn and Queens, starting Wednesday.
The affected neighborhoods are those neighborhoods where the test positivity rate for COVID-19 has been “above 3% for the last seven consecutive days,” Mayor de Blasio told CNN.
The proposal comes just one week after NYC allowed restaurants to reopen dining rooms at 25 percent capacity. If it goes through, restaurants in those nine zip codes would have to return to offering delivery and takeout meals only.
The news is just the latest blow to NYC restaurants, which have taken some of the hardest hits of the industry-wide meltdown brought on by the pandemic. Recently, the New York City Hospitality Alliance said that 87 percent of the 457 restaurants, bars, and nightclubs it surveyed could not pay their rent for the month of August. And at the end of last week, the Alliance released a new report jam-packed with some unsettling stats. As of Aug., employment in the restaurant industry was only 55 percent of its pre-pandemic level from Feb. 2020. Meanwhile, nearly half, or 44 percent, of NYC restaurants have used outdoor seating. It need hardly be said that shutting down that outdoor dining will be another serious blow to business across those nine zip codes.
Offering delivery and takeout bring in some revenue, but as we’ve discussed before, those formats are not yet enough of a lifeline to save a business. In some cases, delivery — an area plagued by controversy and sky-high commission fees for restaurants — can do more harm than good to a business’s margins.
Nor do many independent restaurants have the money to invest in some of the recent developments around off-premises ordering, like GPS-enabled pickup systems, sophisticated digital-ordering technology, and native delivery platforms. Meanwhile, Paycheck Protection Loans are running out, which means so is any hope of governmental assistance. Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the updated $2.2 trillion HEROES Act, which would include $120 billion in relief for independent restaurants. However, it is not expected to be taken up by the Senate.