New Report Details Impact of COVID-19 on NYC Restaurants

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Mission Chinese closed its doors on East Broadway this week.

A new report by the state comptroller’s office paints a bleak picture of the road ahead for the New York City restaurant industry.

In 2019, restaurants and bars accounted for about 1 in 12 private sector jobs in New York City. Estimates of permanent closures over the next year as a result of COVID-19 have ranged from one-third to one-half of all NYC dining and drinking establishments. “At the high end,” the comptroller’s audit noted, “that could result in a permanent loss of nearly 12,000 of the City’s restaurants and bars, and nearly 159,000 industry jobs, although the opening of new restaurants would mitigate some of these losses.”

Let’s take a look at some neighborhood-specific data in the report. The share of establishments receiving permits for outdoor dining was relatively large in the Lower East Side/Chinatown area (887 restaurants or 58.5% of all establishments). That was the third largest number of permits in the whole city (only Battery Park City/Greenwich Village/Soho and Chelsea/Midtown were higher). On a percentage basis, only Williamsburg/Greenpoint and Astoria were higher.

The report also examined how many residents of each neighborhood are employed in the restaurant industry. There were 4,997 restaurant workers in Chinatown/LES (a relatively small workforce compared with neighborhoods such as Jackson Heights, Elmhurst and Flushing).  Immigrants make up the majority of restaurant workers on the Lower East Side and Chinatown (66%). More than have are Asian; 32% are white; 9.9% are Hispanic/Latino.

The comptroller concludes:

Restaurants are one of the keys that make New York City a world-class metropolis. Restaurants
are essential to defining what New York City and its neighborhoods are, from a tourist and international business destination to the City’s rich cultural identity and immigrant communities. These businesses are a vital element that helps draw concentrations of retail and arts and entertainment to thrive in the City, and imbue neighborhoods with character and individuality. They also provide a launching pad for entrepreneurs and immigrants looking to achieve the promise that New York offers. The COVID-19 pandemic has affected this sector to an unprecedented extent and in ways that have never been seen before. It has impacted individuals’ jobs and income, business owners, restaurant patrons and neighborhoods. New York City and State must continue to provide clarity and support to ensure the industry remains healthy and is able to carry out its integral role in the City’s economy and within its many communities. For its part, the federal government should provide new stimulus targeting the sector to sustain operations and help local economies mitigate transmission risk.

You can read the full report here.