NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The restaurant industry has been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic and many are trying to find ways to adapt just to stay afloat.
Lee Seinfeld has owned “Dive Bar” by West 96th Street for more than 30 years.
“This is my life, this is what I do,” he told CBS2’s Ali Bauman.
There’s only room for five tables outside, so these days, business is down about 90%.
“We survived 9/11, we survived Sandy, we survived snowstorms, we survived everything, but this is just something that’s very difficult at this point,” Seinfeld said.
Since indoor dining is postponed indefinitely in New York City, many restaurants have been allowed to extend their outdoor seating into the street, but places like Dive Bar, which sits next to a turning lane, cannot.
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“They’re really scrambling, trying to figure out what they can do in this new world,” said Andrew Rigie, executive director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance. “A lot of restaurants have been trying to figure out how do they maximize their delivery and takeout business … trying to figure out how can we even reduce our menu items because they can’t hire enough people in the kitchen to work.”
On Columbus Avenue, the cocktail bar “Prohibition” barely has any space for outdoor seating, so owner Mike Trenk shifted its staff and resources to his new restaurant “Baylander Steel Beach,” conveniently located on a retired aircraft carrier on the Hudson River.
“I like to think that the Baylander Steel Beach is pandemic-proof,” Trenk said.
The restaurant had already been in the works before the pandemic, but it’s become his proverbial lifeboat.
“The obstacle at Prohibition was we can only have a few tables outside, whereas the Baylander, we have 25 tables and we can seat 100 people comfortably,” Trenk said.
Even places with outdoor dining are still at the mercy of good weather. Many restaurants are desperate for some kind of rent relief.
“We just wanna stay in business. That’s all we wanna do,” Seinfeld said.
Adjustments can help keep these restaurants afloat, but for most, they’re not sustainable.