The pandemic has battered New York City’s hospitality industry, and a new audit released Thursday by the state comptroller sheds some light on exactly how bleak the forecast is for its restaurants and bars. The answer is, very bleak.
As of Sept. 23, about a third of the restaurants and more than half of the bars that were open before the pandemic have stopped operations, according to Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s report. About the same number could close permanently in the next six months, taking with them between 106,000 and 159,000 jobs.
And while outdoor dining started during phase two of the city’s reopening, only 44 percent of restaurants have participated in the initiative.
“The industry is challenging under the best of circumstances and many eateries operate on tight margins,” DiNapoli said in a statement. “Now they face an unprecedented upheaval that may cause many establishments to close forever.”
The numbers are based on data from Womply, a platform that provides assistance to local businesses. Its estimates include some restaurants that are temporarily closed or ones that may only be operating through delivery apps.
Employment within the industry has rebounded slightly since the start of the pandemic, thanks to the introduction of outdoor dining. In April, restaurant employment dropped to 91,000 jobs, compared to 315,000 in February; by August, that number rose to 174,000 jobs, or 55 percent of the pre-pandemic months.
“New York City’s restaurant industry is vital to our economy and Comptroller DiNapoli’s shocking new report confirms with data the economic devastation that Covid-19 has inflicted on these vital small businesses,” Andrew Rigie, executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance, said in a statement.
The audit comes days after the city began indoor dining at 25 percent capacity. Although that move has been hailed as a possible savior for restaurants as colder weather looms, some restaurateurs believe that the limitations will make it difficult to survive.
Other measures the city has taken to help struggling restaurants include making the outdoor dining initiative permanent, and passing a bill that allows restaurants to add a 10 percent “Covid surcharge” to diners’ checks.
But Mayor Bill de Blasio has said that the city cannot afford to bail out the industry, and called on the federal government to step in to help bar and restaurant owners survive.