Midnight Joys Are Back

Can the city that never sleeps possibly be waking up? Well, tonight we’ll get the answer when restaurants and bars will be allowed to stay open for one more hour.  

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Wednesday that restaurants, bars and catered events can enjoy one more hour with their customers. The 11 p.m.. limit has been moved to midnight for restaurants and bars and the midnight limit for catered events changed to 1 a.m., beginning Monday, April, 19 while still remaining at 50 percent capacity

As of last week, the seven day average COVID-19 positivity rate in New York City has been 3.3%, the lowest since Dec. 1st and that’s why the state has opted to extend the curfew plan. Another motive is the continued interest to get New York’s economy back on track by helping out the restaurants that have suffered during the pandemic like those 130 minority-owned small businesses, surveyed by the New York City office of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation  from March 1st to April 1st. Approximately three quarters said they will be forced to close if they do not receive financial aid and 90% said they could close in the next six months, according to the survey. Although no financial aid plan has been drawn out yet, the extra hour is expected to help with the economics of struggling restaurants. 

New York’s governor makes announcement via phone conference (Photo by: Governor’s office)

 “We talked about adjusting the valve between economic activity and economic constraint, depending on how we’re doing with COVID,” said Gov. Cuomo on Wednesday. So “we’re going to extend the 11 p.m. curfew for food and beverage to midnight.” But he also warned New Yorkers to maintain their cool and stay smart.  “At the same time, we caution New Yorkers ‘don’t get cocky,’ [because] the disease is still very much with us,” he said. “We have to stay smart until COVID is crushed, and it won’t be crushed until we get herd immunity, and we won’t get herd immunity until we finish vaccinating everyone,” the governor added.

Getting vaccinated is a civic duty in Cuomo’s view, and so far 5 million New Yorkers have been fully vaccinated statewide compared to the 24% citywide.

And for once, it seems like Gov. Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio can agree on something. The next day the mayor said, “our restaurants, our nightlife industry, absolutely crucial to the future of the city, we look forward to bringing them back, really fully overtime,” said de Blasio on the importance of bringing back the nightlife New York City has always been known for. “Let’s first beat COVID, and continue step-by-step, to bring back these industries.”  

During the pandemic, many New York City’s restaurants have depended on outdoor seating and takeout orders to keep business going. But despite efforts to stay alive, 75% of them have reported revenue declines of over half in the past year so the additional hour is a huge support for them to recover from COVID-19 repercussions.

As we look ahead at the first night of nightlife recovery in New York, many restaurant owners weighed in on how the new restriction change will help them economically and socially. Casa Bocado, a popular Mexican restaurant, opened to the general public in May.  But it has only been open for three days each week. 

“Because people are not so used to being out on a Monday or a Tuesday, we decided to tackle the weekend first,” said the restaurant’s manager Cesar X. Garcia. “We were open Friday and Saturday, and then we added Thursday.” Garcia  said they weren’t as hurt by the pandemic as many other restaurants because they worked on catered events. Still, he expects the extended curfew to help them tremendously in the bar section, because now they won’t have to rush people and they’ll make an extra $200-$300 a night.  

“When it used to be 11 p.m., the last call for the drinks was at 10:15 so you gave a customer 45 minutes to finish and you’re pushing them to drink faster. With this hour change, they can actually enjoy one more drink,” he explained.  

Also on the manager’s agenda:  to hire more staff and add Sunday and Wednesday to their days of operation with brunches.

Petaluma restaurant, on the upper east side and restaurant Leave Rochelle Out Of It, also in SoHo are two other places that will benefit by letting their customers enjoy their outdoor spaces a little longer. 

Leave Rochelle Out Of It restaurant (Photo by: Christopher Alvarez)

Joseph Leonard, owner of Leave Rochelle Out Of It, appreciates the extra hour, “I think the curfew is what’s really been restricting us here, so next week, for midnight, we added about 48 seats to our set up outside for people to come out after a late dinner for a drink or two,” Leonard said.

Petaluma restaurant does not have a bar to drink but their plan as it gets warmer, is to close their kitchen at 10:30 p.m. for their customers to enjoy one more “fancy, late night dinner inside and outside,” said manager David Diaz. “It’s a win-win situation for us and them.”