Faced with a sudden rise of COVID-19 infections and the Omicron variant, many New York City restaurants have temporarily closed. The holidays are usually a boon for the restaurant industry, with corporate office events and family feasts in abundance. Many restaurant owners were pinning hopes on holiday sales to balance out a fall in revenue following the peak of summer outdoor dining.
Over the last week, Instagram become the hub of dozens of announcements from restaurants reporting that they were closing due to confirmed staff exposure to COVID-19, or simply out of caution. Restaurant owners told the New York Times that they were shocked at how quickly the cases spread within the staff and in the city at large, given that all staff members were fully vaccinated, and many restaurants even went beyond official protocol to require staff members to remain masked or get booster shots. The government’s failure to develop effective mass testing procedures and the testing stock has led to a compounding challenge for the restaurant industry, which already faces labor shortages and difficulty with product supply chains.
For restaurants that closed, losing holiday and sunk costs of product is a bitter pill to swallow. While some closed for just a few days or weeks, others closed for the foreseeable future. Crown Shy owner Jeff Katz told Eater that they lost 350 reservations and three-holiday parties for a single day shutdown, resulting in $80,000 to $100,000 of lost sales. Employees were paid for the closure and received rapid PCR testing from a privately contracted company. St. John Frizell’s Fort Defiance closed until March 2022, going into “protective mode” during the slow season of January and Winter. On December 21, Yellow Rose owners Krystiana and Dave Rizo hosted an open Zoom call for NYC restaurant owners to discuss best practices for how to approach the situation at hand.
With the barriers to regular testing, increased risk of infection, and minimal government support for individuals and restaurants alike, experts predict the Great Resignation will only accelerate.
Following the lead of NYC mayor Bill de Blasio, more major cities are now requiring proof of vaccination for indoor dining. Starting in January 2022, Philadelphia, Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston, and Washington D.C. will also require proof of vaccination for indoor dining, movie theaters, entertainment venues, sports venues, and gyms.
On Wednesday, de Blasio stated that as of now, the annual outdoor New Year’s Eve Times Square celebration will go on as planned. Access will be restricted to those with proof of vaccination, or those wearing masks with proof of a negative PCR test within 72 hours. Other NYC holiday staples such as the Radio City Rockettes’ Christmas Spectacular and many popular Broadway shows have canceled performances for the rest of the season.