Coronavirus News: New York City restaurants struggle to survive pandemic

UPPER WEST SIDE, Manhattan (WABC) -- With indoor dining set to reopen soon in limited capacity in New York City, struggling restaurants are wondering how long they can last.

Unless you've been living in a bubble, you've noticed it feels more like winter than fall.

Then again, if you're on the Upper West Side, maybe you haven't noticed because you've been eating in a bubble.

"People love it. When it rains it's protected. When it's cold it's windy, so it's like a greenhouse effect. It's pretty cool," Cafe du Soleil manager Maxim Rousselot said.

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At Cafe du Soleil on the Upper West Side, there are 16 of these bubbles. They cost $400 a pop. But it was worth it.

On Tuesday night, the restaurant was packed. Every bubble was occupied and there was with a line stretching down the block.

"If it can keep us on through the winter times, at least maybe November, December," Rousselot said.

According to a new survey, nine out of 10 restaurants, bars and nightlife venues in the city could not pay their full rent last month.

The New York City Hospitality Alliance says just over a third of them were unable to pay any rent at all.

"It would've been impossible. Literally, if you know we didn't have a big outdoor space we might have been closed already you know, we're lucky. I have some friends that have opened restaurants downtown. Like outdoor two or three tables. They couldn't survive, that's it," Rousselot said.

Indoor dining in the city begins next Wednesday, but only at 25% capacity.

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That means restaurants will need to supplement indoor with outdoor, to make ends meet.

With colder temperatures heading our way, the question is how?

"I want to give every possible opportunity to our restaurants to succeed and survive," New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said. "Now it comes with real health and safety concerns that have to be addressed that are different with warmer weather."

But what will be those opportunities to survive?

Restaurants want to know what's the guidance on heat lamps. Will propane be allowed? Will they be allowed to use electric?

The mayor said on Tuesday, he'll have those answers as soon as possible.

"Yeah very soon. In fact it's on the agenda I think even later today to try and resolve that," Mayor de Blasio said. "We're going to work with the city agencies, with the state."

Restaurants are hoping they'll get those answers before it gets warm again.

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Suddenly, the brutal death of George Floyd while in the custody of police officers in Minneapolis filled the streets of a nation with rage and sorrow. New York was no different. Protesters put the fear of the virus aside and took to the streets by the thousands. Abandoning the safety and comfort of social distance, to demand social change.


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