New York restaurants, once bustling spaces that shaped the city’s character, are in trouble.
The state government wants to curb that trend. On Wednesday, the Empire State Development Corporation announced a new fund designed to support struggling restaurants over the winter period with grants of up to $5,000 per business.
The “Raising The Bar Recovery Fund” will distribute a collective $3 million to eligible businesses across New York State.
Applications open Jan. 11 for full-service restaurants that can demonstrate financial hardship and meet a set of criteria, which includes having no more than $3 million in 2019 revenue and proving that the pandemic impacted the business. Franchises are not eligible.
The restaurant industry, which thrives on packing groups of people into small spaces, has been battered by the pandemic, causing widespread job losses. Though indoor dining resumed in September it was banned again in December, as Covid cases surged.
Many businesses have experimented with creative outdoor-dining spaces, but the onset of winter means attracting diners to sit outside in freezing winter conditions — no easy feat.
Even before indoor dining was banned for a second time, a record 88 percent of restaurants could not pay full rent in October rent, according to a survey by the New York City Hospitality Alliance. Diners have been encouraged to order delivery to support local restaurants, and many publications are keeping running tallies of the eateries shuttered since the pandemic hit.
The scale of job loss is also immense. A report published Wednesday by the city’s Independent Budget Office found that there were almost 466,000 people working in hospitality in New York City at the end of 2019, a category that includes restaurants and bars. The watchdog group predicted that by the end of last year, some 217,000 of those jobs had disappeared.
Industry groups have been pushing Gov. Andrew Cuomo to act, either through direct relief or by pressuring the federal government to pass the RESTAURANTS Act, which was introduced in June but has languished ever since.