Rent struggles for NYC restaurants now worse than ever

87% of surveyed establishments fail to pay full balance

TRD New York /
Sep.September 21, 2020 01:27 PM
New York City restaurants have struggled to make rent throughout the pandemic but August marked a new high. Andrew Rigie of the NYC Hospitality Alliance (Getty; Institute of Culinary Education)

New York City restaurants have struggled to make rent throughout the pandemic but August marked a new high. Andrew Rigie of the NYC Hospitality Alliance (Getty; Institute of Culinary Education)

Restaurants in New York City have been struggling to make rent throughout the pandemic, but this month marks a new devastating high.

Eighty-seven percent of New York City establishments could not pay their full August rent, according to a new survey of more than 450 restaurants, bars, and nightlife venues by the NYC Hospitality Alliance. Of those, 34 percent did not pay at all.

The numbers have been creeping up throughout the summer: In July, 83 percent of those surveyed could not pay their full rent; in June, it was 80 percent.

“Even before the pandemic when operating at 100 percent occupancy, these small businesses were struggling to stay open,” Andrew Rigie, executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance, said in a statement. “Now we’re seeing widespread closures, approximately 150,000 industry workers are still out of their jobs, and the overwhelming majority of these remaining small businesses cannot afford to pay rent.”

A recent survey by the New York State Restaurants Association found a stunning 64 percent of restaurants across believe they could close by the end of the year.

Some 40 percent of respondents said that their landlords have waived rent. Of those, 43 percent had half of their rent waived, and nearly 40 percent have had rent deferred.

A smaller percentage have been able to renegotiate their leases: Fifteen percent say they already have, while another 28 percent are currently in good faith negotiations.

Indoor dining is set to begin Sept. 30 and may offer some relief for restaurants, which have been experimenting with outdoor dining over the summer. The City Council also recently approved a bill that would allow restaurants to add a 10 percent “Covid surcharge” to patrons’ checks.

But eateries will be allowed to operate at only 25 percent capacity, and the NYC Hospitality Alliance is calling for increased support of the industry moving forward.

“The hospitality industry is essential to New York’s economic and social fabric, and to ensure the survival of these vital small businesses and jobs, we urgently need rent relief, an indefinite extension of outdoor dining, a roadmap for expanded indoor dining, covered business interruption insurance and immediate passage of the Restaurants Act by Congress,” Rigie said.






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