In a world where hotels and restaurants already face a dismal future, a new study has found that nearly two-thirds of publicly traded restaurants are at risk of bankruptcy as the Covid-19 pandemic batters the industry. The odds of failure are even higher for small companies and restaurants that specialize in dine-in, consulting firm Aaron Allen & Associates said in an analysis. It identified Bloomin’ Brands, Potbelly and Chili’s owner Brinker International Inc. among those at greater risk according to Bloomberg.
"It’s really the full-service model that’s in the biggest danger," principal Aaron Allen said. "Some of those that are in casual dining - a lot of those had already been bleeding cash, bleeding locations."
And while Americans are starting to tentatively venture out again, and restaurants are seeing a modest rebound from rock bottom according to OpenTable data...
... the dining recovery may be slow with unemployment on the rise, cautious spending and also ongoing concerns about health and safety. This leaves the restaurant industry - already upended by broad stay-at-home orders that led to sharp declines in restaurant sales - facing a bleak future.
One of the biggest challenges restaurants face, according to the study, is convincing Americans that it’s safe to dine in. TGI Friday’s is taking unusual steps to lure customers in, including renting party tents to expand dining space to parking lots. "When people are eating outside they feel much safer," CEO Ray Blanchette said in an interview. Some of their stores in southern states already have patios, he said.
The difference between the restaurants that survive and those that don’t may come down to which can make customers feel most comfortable, according to Katherine Miller, vice president of impact at the James Beard Foundation.
"People are going to return to places that they trust first,” she said in an email. “Mostly trust to keep them safe."
Unfortunately, for the following landmark New York City restaurant, it's too late, as a sizable group has been forced to shutter permanently as the industry contends with colossal losses to the tune of billions of dollars. Among those that have closed are decades-old neighborhood stalwarts like Keith McNally’s Lucky Strike, along with some newer establishments like Randall’s Barbecue on the Lower East Side.
According to Eater, this may just be the beginning of permanent closures, however, as rent and utility payments continue to mount in the coming months. There’s also no word yet from the state or city governments on when restaurants will be able to reopen, and what that return will look like. In April, a survey conducted by the National Restaurant Association predicted that 4 percent of New York’s roughly 25,000 restaurants had permanently closed after the start of the pandemic, and predicted that another 7 percent would close this month.
Below is a list of the permanent restaurant closures in NYC so far as catalogued by Eater.
Midtown: The Copacabana — an iconic New York City nightclub whose stage has seen the likes of Harry Belafonte, the Supremes, and Carmen Miranda — permanently closed this month after an 80-year run in multiple locations. A staffer at the nightclub attributed the closure to the novel coronavirus shutdown, adding that the venue planned to return next year at a new unspecified location.
Times Square: Manhattan’s luxe new hotel the Times Square Edition, which temporarily closed in light of the pandemic, is set to permanently close this August, just one year after its hyped-up Manhattan debut. The hotel is home to several restaurant and bar options helmed by chef John Fraser, including its ninth-floor Terrace Restaurant and the Outdoor Gardens, an all-day American brasserie. The flagship fine-dining restaurant 701West notably received three-stars in the New York Times. The hotel was a partnership between hotelier Ian Schrager and Marriott International Inc.
Tribeca: Vietnamese fast-casual restaurant Vietspot has permanently closed just two years after opening in the neighborhood. Owner Sophie Nguyen tells Tribeca Citizen that she hopes to fully reopen the FiDi outpost of the restaurant — which is also the original location — when the current restrictions on dining-in are lifted. For now, that outpost is open for delivery and takeout.
West Village: Japanese grilling destination Takashi has left the West Village after more than a decade in the neighborhood. The novel coronavirus shutdown dealt the tabletop grilling spot “a particularly deft blow,” according to a letter posted to the restaurant’s website by owner Saheem Al. Given the restaurant’s focus on interactive, family-style meals, a pivot to delivery or takeout didn’t make sense, Ali wrote, while the restaurant was too small to make a comeback with dine-in service at reduced capacity.
West Village: Blenheim, an upscale farm-to-table restaurant in the West Village, appears to have permanently closed without announcement, according to tipsters who described the space as “cleared out entirely.” In its six-year run, the restaurant was known for its “grown-to-order” produce, which comes from two farms in the Catskills also owned by the restaurant. At the time of writing, the owners have not posted a closing announcement to their website or social media page.
Tribeca: Manhattan mini-chain Schnippers has permanently closed its Tribeca outpost, according to local publication Tribeca Citizen. The Schnippers brothers opened the burger restaurant in 2016; the duo had founded and operated Hale and Hearty soups until 2006, when they sold the company. Three other Schnippers remain, in Times Square, Midtown, and the Financial District.
Upper West Side: Charming French restaurant Bistro Cassis announced that it would close after more than 15 years of business. The Upper West Side bistro remained open for takeout and delivery service through the first two months of the coronavirus pandemic, serving its popular French onion soup, rack of lamb, and steak frites to locals in the neighborhood. Despite an outpouring of support from customers online, though, the restaurant shared that its last day would be May 11.
Upper West Side: Upper West Side’s counter-service kosher spot Effy’s has permanently closed according to an announcement from the restaurant’s owners. The seven-year-old restaurant was beloved in the neighborhood for its breakfast and brunches, which highlighted Mediterranean and Israeli dishes. Although the owners did not cite a reason for closing, a chalkboard sign in front of the restaurant last week did share hopes to serve diners again at another location in the city.
Chelsea: Boston-based tapas restaurant Toro NYC will not be reopening following the coronavirus pandemic. The restaurant — an expansion of the successful, original Toro restaurant operated by JK Food Group — posted a message to its Facebook and Instagram accounts in March, announcing that its “staff will not have a restaurant home to come back to when this pandemic ends.”
East Village: Michelin-starred sushi omakase spot Jewel Bako has closed its doors for good, EV Grieve reports. The restaurant — “one of the most enjoyable places to enjoy sushi in the city,” according to New York Magazine — posted a sign to its door earlier this week advertising an “open house sale” with kitchen appliances, supplies, and wine for sale. The team’s nearby chef counter Restaurant Ukiyo has closed as well, the owners confirm to Eater.
Flatbush: The Brooklyn location of Wolf and Lamb Steakhouse has closed as a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic, owner Zalman Wuensch announced over Facebook. “After nearly a decade serving the Brooklyn Kosher community, we are sad to announce that due to issues related to the corona crisis, Wolf and Lamb is sad to be closing our Brooklyn location,” Wuensch said. The steakhouse’s midtown Manhattan location is temporarily closed but plans to reopen when it is safe to do so.
Fort Greene: After more than six years in the neighborhood, Fort Greene’s Greene Grape Annex has permanently closed. The airy cafe — known for its naturally-lit dining room, late-night hours, and many, many planter boxes — closed due to the coronavirus pause, says owner Amy Bennett in an email to her staff. “I look forward to a time where things are back to (a new) normal and the kind of neighborhood social interaction that Annex fostered comes back,” she says. The Greene Grape Annex is survived by the nearby Green Grape Provisions grocery store and Greene Grape Wine and Spirits, where some of the cafe’s staff will be rehired.
Greenpoint: Cherry Point, an English-inspired farm-to-table restaurant, shuttered after four years due to the coronavirus shutdown. The bistro was best known for its selection of meats, which earned it a loving two-star review from Times critic Pete Wells last year. Owner Vince Mazeau says he fought to keep the restaurant open so that his staff could continue earning money, but in March, the weight of upcoming rent payments became too much. Mazeau arranged an agreement with his landlord to postpone rent payments while he sought out a lease takeover.
Hudson Square: The huge flagship store of chocolatier Jacques Torres has decided not to renew its lease, a decision made before the coronavirus crisis. Jacques Torres first debuted this Hudson Square storefront back in 2004, when the mass-market chocolate company was still in its infancy. The company’s well-liked chocolates, chocolate chip cookies, and ultra-rich hot chocolate can still be purchased online and at its six other locations.
Park Slope: The Brooklyn location of Soho’s popular Blue Ribbon Fried Chicken appears to have permanently closed. A real estate sign in the restaurant’s window lists that the storefront is available for lease, according to a tipster in the neighborhood, while the store’s Open Table page lists the spot as permanently closed.
Upper East Side: After a successful two decades in the neighborhood, Upper East Side favorite Beyoglu has permanently closed. A sign posted on the Turkish restaurant’s door says that the owners were unable to pay to extend their lease as a result of the coronavirus shutdown. Known for its doner kebab, hummus, and traditional Turkish fare, Beyoglu was particularly popular during warmer months with its outdoor seating that stretched around the corner.
Washington Heights: Popular Irish pub Coogan’s has closed after more than 30 years in Washington Heights. The owners of the restaurant had received a temporary rent moratorium from their landlord but were unable to pay the cost of the leases on their restaurant equipment, according to the New York Times. The neighborhood stalwart was able to avoid closing once before, back in January 2018, when more than 14,000 people signed a petition to save the restaurant from rising rent prices.
Columbus Circle: Two luxury cocktail bars from famed Chicago-based restaurant group Alinea permanently closed on April 15. Despite Alinea’s popularity in Chicago, the Aviary and the Office were received with mixed reviews during their two-year tenures in the Mandarin Oriental hotel at Columbus Circle. Alinea co-founder and restaurateur Nick Kokonas confirmed that the bars were already scheduled to shut down on April 15, a decision made before the COVID-19 crisis.
East Village: Nearly 100-year-old East Village shop Gem Spa shut down permanently after a tumultuous year. The iconic shop, reportedly the birthplace of the egg cream and long a fixture in NYC’s punk rock and art scenes, had landlord issues and lost its lottery and cigarette license in August, something that represented more than 80 percent of revenue. A robust social media campaign and apparel sales celebrating the shop’s history, though popular, ultimately were not enough to keep it going due to COVID-19’s impact.
Financial District: One of Lower Manhattan’s oldest bars, the Paris Cafe, has permanently closed after more than a century in the Financial District. The pub was 147 years old, and was almost destroyed during Hurricane Sandy, according to Tribeca Citizen. On March 6, owner Pete O’Connell posted on Facebook that he had no option but to close the Paris Cafe. “Through no fault of anyone but the outbreak of this virus, we are unable to forge a way forward that makes economic sense,” he said.
Forest Hills: The Irish Cottage, a popular local restaurant that’s been around for 60 years, announced it would be close on May 7. Run by the McNulty family, the restaurant prided itself on Irish tradition and being an active part of the community by hosting fundraisers and live music. Kathleen McNulty, who ran the business since 1986, died in April due to complications from COVID-19; her sons made the decision to close, saying that takeout would not sustain the business.
Greenwich Village: After 36 years and many accolades, fine dining trailblazer Gotham Bar & Grill has permanently closed. The Greenwich Village institution, which received one Michelin star and three stars from Pete Wells, permanently closed on March 13, at a time when many restaurants were just beginning to announce temporary closures. A spokesperson said it was due to the virus, though a source at the restaurant said that was only part of the reasoning.
Lower East Side: Well-liked barbecue joint Randall’s served its last pastrami and brisket on April 3, owner and pitmaster Jared Male posted on Instagram. Shortly after opening in August 2018, Eater critic Robert Sietsema stopped in for a visit, where he had some memorable pastrami and brisket.
Rego Park: Irish pub and restaurant Woodhaven House opted to close permanently due to the “devastating” financial impact of the crisis. The restaurant, known for its live music and cozy, wood-laden space, had been in the neighborhood for 16 years.
Soho: Neighborhood institution Lucky Strike closed for good on April 15, following more than 30 years in Soho. The French-American bistro from Keith McNally landed on Grand Street in 1989, well before better-known hangouts like Balthazar and Pastis. Despite its popularity, though, McNally shared in a 2016 interview that Lucky Strike didn’t make “any money,” which is at least part of the reason the bistro closed. The crisis, McNally said, made it difficult for the restaurant to work financially.
Soho: One of New York City’s earliest craft cocktail bar destinations, Pegu Club, has permanently closed after close to 15 years in Soho. Owner Audrey Saunders shared that the bar’s lease was set to expire in October, and though she planned to keep the bar open until then, the coronavirus shutdown “has taken every bit of the life we had out of us.”
West Village: Daddy-O, the popular West Village dive bar known as hangout spot for local chefs, permanently closed on April 30 after more than 20 years. The bar is responsible for several of the entries on Eater NY’s list of hard-to-find foods in NYC, including Western New York specialties like the “garbage plate,” but it was largely beloved for its vibe as a neighborhood bar.
Williamsburg: After a 16-year run in Williamsburg and Nolita, Ithaca-based coffee roaster Gimme Coffee permanently closed its two New York City storefronts due to the economic impact of the virus. The coffee roaster’s Williamsburg outpost, which opened in 2003, was among the first third-wave coffee shops in the city, setting the stage for a boom in espresso drinking and indie coffee culture over the next decade.