Reopen NYC: Indoor food markets struggle with lack of outdoor dining

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- Most New York City restaurants are doing their best to survive on outdoor dining, take out and deliveries, but for restaurants based in food markets like Chelsea Market, they have their own set of challenges to overcome.

Many are trying to adapt in order to survive.

Outdoor dining is hardly the panacea for restaurants during the coronavirus pandemic, but for the family owned Thai restaurant Thank You Come Again, it's a struggle to even offer a small sidewalk setup.

"There is definitely an extra step," co-owner Sage Lau said.

That's because the restaurant is actually based in Dekalb Market, an underground food hall in Downtown Brooklyn. Co-owner Toon Lau says they make everything fresh to order and then have to run it up and down the stairs.

"I have 38 small businesses that no one is even able to go to the counter to order from," Dekalb Market partner Anna Castellani said. "So that's a huge problem."

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Castellani isn't charging her tenants their monthly fees and is taking a smaller percentage of their sales right now to ease their pain.

At many other food halls like Gotham Market West and Canal Street Market, customers can order inside and eat outside.

At Chelsea Market, they even have street side windows for ordering. But because Dekalb Market is located in a mall, customers can't go inside to order -- and yet, the mall is open for shopping at Target and Trader Joe's.

"The politics are in the way," Castellani said. "I'm not sure how long my vendors will be able to do this."

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There is no obvious recipe for how to stay afloat, and owners are hoping that indoor dining resumes soon or at the very least, their customers to go inside the food hall to order.

"We do have a lot of staff," Sage Lau said. "To continue to support them is a priority...We have to figure out what else, what more we can do."

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