92% of restaurants could not make December rent

Return of indoor dining offers a glimmer of hope

NYC Hospitality Alliance's Andrew Rigie (Getty, Twitter/Illustration by Kevin Rebong for The Real Deal)
NYC Hospitality Alliance's Andrew Rigie (Getty, Twitter/Illustration by Kevin Rebong for The Real Deal)

The situation for New York City’s restaurateurs — and their landlords — got even more dire at the end of 2020.

A new report by the New York City Hospitality Alliance found that 92 percent of restaurants could not pay their full December rent, the highest that number has been since the pandemic began.

That number has also increased every month during the health crisis; in June, 80 percent of restaurateurs couldn’t afford rent, and it’s steadily risen since.

Of those who could afford some rental payment at the end of 2020, just 49 percent paid half of their rent, while 28 percent paid less than half.

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And though they may be teetering on the brink of survival, not all restaurants are getting a break from their landlords. Sixty percent of landlords have not worked with tenants to waive rental payments.

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Of the 40 percent who did waive rent, only 17 percent waived more than half of rent owed, while 37 percent deferred those payments to a later date.

Some restaurants — 14 percent — however, have managed to renegotiate their leases. Twenty-four percent remain in good faith negotiations.

But there may be a glimmer of hope on the horizon. The results of the survey predate the reopening of indoor dining, which is expected to help with restaurants’ bottom lines.

For example, the number of seated diners on Valentine’s Day was only 56 percent lower than it was the same Sunday a year ago — the smallest decline since restrictions began last March

But Andrew Rigie, the executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance, called on the state to allow restaurants to move indoor dining to 50 percent capacity — currently, it’s capped at 25 percent — to help boost revenue for struggling eateries. About 4,000 restaurants in New York City have shut since the pandemic began 11 months ago.

“While the reopening of highly regulated indoor dining is welcome news, we need to safely increase occupancy to 50 percent as soon as possible, and we urgently need robust and comprehensive financial relief from the federal government,” Rigie said in a statement. His group has been pushing Congress to pass the RESTAURANTS Act and increase relief funding for restaurateurs.