NEW YORK – With few tables on the sidewalks and with the challenging weather, restaurant owners are fighting for the survival of their businesses.
The semi-enclosed outdoor dining structures with heaters are not enough to bring in customers and help the restaurants cope with their expenses. However, the shops in residential neighborhoods are in a better position as delivery and takeout bring in a bit more business.
One of the restaurants is Yefsi, 1481 York Avenue in Manhattan. "We make a lot of deliveries because this is a residential area. We have been in the neighborhood for nine years and people now know us, so I cannot complain because I never closed the store. Before the pandemic we only made a few deliveries. When we had to close, however, the demand for deliveries increased, the people became familiar with us, something that worked out well for us," said Christos Christou, owner and chef of the restaurant.
About 20 people can sit in the specially designed outdoor dining space. "We are trying to survive. We have put in heaters and it fills up once, one and a half times, about 40 people a day. And about 40 deliveries per day," added Christou, who now also performs the duties of chef. “I had to reduce the staff. I did not work in the kitchen, I was out front with clients, now I work three times a week in the kitchen. I had seven waiters, now I have only three and one working per day.”
Korali Estiatorio is located at 1662 3rd Avenue. As the manager, George Kalogeropoulos, said, “things are very difficult. The good thing is that we have customers from the neighborhood. The bad thing about this is that if you make a mistake, they will not come back. But if they are happy – which fortunately they are – they come and support the store. But it is not the same in Midtown that relies on tourists. We are struggling, we all do everything. We also make several deliveries. With the outdoor dining structures we have made which seat up to 40 people, customers feel safe, but when the temperature drops very low, of course, no one shows up," said Kalogeropoulos.
The traffic at Gemini Diner, 641 2nd Avenue, has decreased significantly, and for the first time in its history, the diner closes its doors at midnight and is no longer open 24 hours a day. Its owner, Kostas Kassimis, said, "things are difficult. Traffic is down considerably. We are a little luckier than those dealing with tourism because there are houses and offices in the area, as well as the hospital nearby and so we are comfortable. The staff of 35 people has been reduced to 15.”
The expenses are not covered at Taverna Kyclades, 228 1st Avenue, either, according to manager Thymios Papadopoulos. "We do not cover our expenses. We cannot pay the rent. The State is pressuring us to remove the plastic because it says it is illegal. They are pushing to make more money, either from permits or to close us down. The state is trying to get it from us. Supermarkets, malls are open. What's the difference? Isn't the virus in Long Island? Is it only here in Manhattan? In terms of staff we have not reduced the number of people but their hours. Otherwise it doesn’t work."
Pylos Restaurant, 128 E 7th Street operates with just six tables for outdoor dining. Nevertheless, they have a hard time filling them. "All the rest of the winter, all these cold months we have no work. Only last week we did well. Even the deliveries are down,” said the restaurant manager.
Greek Eats, 1229 1st Avenue, works mainly with takeout and delivery and according to the manager "we were not particularly affected. I am not saying that everything is perfect, things could always be better, but we also have staff that relies on us and needs to work.”