By Michael Herzenberg
October 10, 2020
“We’re going to do everything that we can to survive this thing,” restaurant owner Nick Verses tells NY1 News about the economic impact of COVID-19. “So I get up every day and I try to make this work.”
Like other restaurants, Verses shut Bar Dough down when the pandemic erupted. When he reopened, it was with half his staff, a skeleton crew for outdoor dining and now indoor seating limited to 25 percent of capacity.
“It’s challenging,” he explains, especially because his restaurant is in the Theater District.
Bar Dough is on Restaurant Row, a strip of establishments built largely on theatergoers. Some of the couple dozen restaurants and bars along 46th Street are closed for now, some for good.
“It’s discouraging. You see new places closing all the time,” Verses says. “How long can you sustain something like this?”
He’ll have to sustain it for longer than he wanted now that theater owners and producers announced Broadway will remain closed until at least June. It’s a new blow to the city’s economy.
“What’s really, really distinctive in terms of New York’s competitive offering from a tourism point of view is, you know, Broadway itself,” Tim Tompkins, the president of the Times Square Alliance, told NY1 News.
The Business Improvement District says the Theatre District and Times Square make up one tenth of 1 percent of the city’s land mass, and 15 percent of the city’s economy.
“A lot of people said 2021’s gonna be better, and now, we already know at the very least, it’s not going to be until the summer of 2021,” Tompkins said.
Hotels continue to struggle. According to preliminary numbers from the data company STR, hotel occupancy was just 37 percent last month versus 90 percent a year ago.
The Hotel Association of New York City has all but conceded that tourists will not return for a while, extending its deal with the city to use hotels as shelters.
Meanwhile, Nick Verses is trying stay positive.
“The only thing we need to do is fence two of the areas so that we can block wind and get heaters, which will be next week,” he said about his outdoor dining space.
Verses said the good thing that’s come out of this crisis is that his restaurant, which only opened 13 months ago, has connected with those who live in the neighborhood.
“So, we’re seeing a lot more locals in the area coming to discover Restaurant Row,” he said.
He explains street closures have helped, and he’s counting on the city extending them through December.
“We’re trying to survive right now until this thing is over and we can get back on our feet,” he said.
But that now will take longer than he had hoped.