Coronavirus Update New York City: 92% of NYC restaurants could not afford December rent, survey reveals

Coronavirus update for NYC
NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- The return of indoor dining in New York City couldn't come soon enough for struggling Big Apple restaurants, as a new survey by the New York City Hospitality Alliance reveals 92% of more than 400 respondents couldn't afford to pay December rent, a number that has steadily increased since the start of the pandemic.

In June, the survey revealed 80% of restaurants could not afford to pay rent; July 83%; August 87%; and October 88%.

The non-profit organization says the year-end figures are dismal for the future of the "Restaurant Capital of the World."

Before COVID-19, New York City was home to over 25,000 restaurants, bars and nightclubs that employed 325,000 people.

Thousands of eating and drinking establishments have already permanently closed as a result of the pandemic and accompanying restrictions, and the industry shed more than 140,000 jobs in the last year.

According to more than 400 respondents representing New York City's restaurants, bars, and nightlife establishments, only 40% of tenants' landlords reduced rent in relation to COVID-19; only 36% of tenants' landlords deferred rent in relation to COVID-19; and only 14% of businesses have been able to successfully renegotiate leases (61% have not, 24% are in "good faith" negotiations).

The results come after New York City's restaurants and bars were restricted to outdoor dining during some of winter's coldest temperatures, while restaurants outside of the five boroughs continued highly regulated indoor dining at 50% occupancy, as they've done safely and effectively since June.

Officials say a return to indoor dining at 25% occupancy offers a glimmer of hope for New York City's struggling restaurants, but business owners and industry leaders insist a path to reopening at 50% occupancy is necessary to continue treading water.

Only robust and compressive federal stimulus can truly save the industry, officials say, which nationwide has lost some 110,000 restaurants and 2.5 million jobs, 372,000 jobs of which were lost in December alone.

In the absence of government funding, many restaurants have had to get creative. Some offer meal kits or sell groceries and some are allowing other brands to use their kitchens.

That's the case at Sarabeth's in Tribeca where alongside its famous tomato soup is a ramen operation while Harris Salat is reviving his brand Ganso.

"I had this lightbulb, maybe there is a way for Ganso to come back, but not in the way we had before, not in a traditional restaurant," Salat said.

The new Ganso is take-out and delivery only after its original Brooklyn location lasted six years. Rent, labor costs and insurance forced it to shut despite rave reviews.

Salat can't imagine running a brick-and-mortar operation, particularly during a pandemic, but sharing a kitchen and limiting financial risk is ideal.

"It's a great model from a business side because it helps everyone," Salat said because Sarabeth's takes a cut of Ganso's revenue.

There is even an app called Kitch to show kitchen spaces that are available called

"We're nearly a year into the public health and economic crisis that has decimated New York City's restaurants, bars, and nightlife venues," said Andrew Rigie, executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance. "While the reopening of highly regulated indoor dining is welcome news, we need to safely increase occupancy to 50% as soon as possible, and we urgently need robust and comprehensive financial relief from the federal government. We will continue to work with Senator and Majority Leader Schumer to ensure that the $25 billion restaurant industry recovery fund is passed as part of the Biden administration's emergency relief plan, and advocate for the enactment of the RESTAURANTS Act to save as many local eating and drinking spots and jobs as possible."

For full survey results, a link to the results are available here.

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