New York’s Restaurants and Bars To Close

The restaurant inside Whole Foods was shut down Monday morning. Photo by Caroline Chen

The eating area inside Whole Foods was shut down Monday morning. Photo by Caroline Chen

New York City’s restaurants and bars will shut down to help combat coronavirus spread, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Sunday evening.

“Our lives are all changing in ways that were unimaginable just a week ago,” de Blasio said in a statement Sunday night. “This is not a decision I make lightly. These places are part of the heart and soul of our city.”

De Blasio originally said that the ban would go into effect Tuesday morning, but Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a statewide ban that would override the city ban and go into effect at 8 p.m. Monday night. Also included in the governor’s order:  gyms, movie theaters, and casinos, also ordered to close.

“The coronavirus doesn’t care about state borders, so this agreement will help protect the entire Tri-State Area,” Cuomo said. “These temporary closures will last as long as is necessary to protect the public health.”

Across the country, some cities are implementing similar strategies to try and protect customers and employees. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced in a video Sunday night that bars would close and restaurants would stop offering dine-in services, effective midnight that night and lasting through March 31.

Milk Bar, which has locations in Los Angeles and New York, emailed customers saying that it would be pausing its baking classes and temporarily closing four of its New York City locations, while monitoring other stores across the country. The bakery said would also be removing in-store seating.

Restaurant workers across the city took to social media, asking for patrons to continue supporting small businesses as best they could—by buying gift cards to use at a future date, ordering takeout, and tipping deliverers whenever possible.

David Chang, the owner of Momofuku restaurants in New York and Los Angeles, posted a message saying that in this unchartered territory, the only responsible option at the moment was to close the restaurants. Chang went on to detail how Momofuku, which has 16 locations around the world, would continue to provide for employees during closure.

Salaried employees, Chang said, would take a reduction in pay. Hourly employees would be paid through March 20th and hourly employees who had been with the company for five years would be paid through April 3rd. All hourly employees, he said, would continue to have health insurance through April 30. He said the company would help with COVID-19 related medical care in whatever way possible.

The NYC Hospitality Alliance, a nonprofit group which represents restaurants and bars in the city, said that because of the mandated closure, the government should provide for employees because “small businesses cannot.” It also added that third-party restaurant delivery companies—such as GrubHub, Postmates, and Uber Eats—should cap restaurant delivery fees at 10% to the for the time being.

The nonprofit also announced that the State Liquor Authority and the governor also approved temporary measures to help some businesses. Alcohol-licensed vendors will be able to deliver alcohol as well as takeout during this time.

Chef José Andrés, who owns Mercado Little Spain in New York, said on Twitter that although closing restaurants would be painful, it must be done to avoid what’s happening in other countries like Italy and his native Spain.

“This is the only way,” Andrés said.