The clock has finally struck midnight for New York’s restaurants and bars, only this time, that is a good thing. Governor Cuomo announced that beginning Monday April 19th, the curfew on bars and restaurants will be extended from 11 PM to midnight. In addition, weddings and other catered events will be allowed to run until 1 AM instead of midnight. Also, auto and horse racing events will be able to accommodate spectators at 20 percent capacity beginning Friday April 23.
The extra hour combined with the 50 percent capacity allotment is no doubt good news for many businesses. But there are still major issues. One of which is the requirement that a “food item” be purchased with alcohol. Another concern that must be addressed is the prohibition of serving customers at the bar. Bar seating accounts for significant portions of revenue and there is no reason why long bars cannot be divided into socially distant parcels. Losing this seating combined with capacity restrictions is too much for many places.
Another impediment to a return to the New York City nightlife scene stems from a poor rollout of the Shuttered Venues Operators Grant. The program was set to open on April 8th to provide over $16 billion to theaters, clubs, and music venues. However due to technical issues the US Small Business Administration (SBA) had to shut down the application portal. A week later, the application remains closed, with no announcement about when it will reopen. According to a survey conducted by the National Independent Venues Association, 9 in 10 independent venues would not have survived last year without government aid. The Shuttered Venue Operators Grant can make up as much as 45 percent of gross revenue from 2019, up to $10 million.
Although we have made great strides in fighting Covid-19, New York still has a long, difficult road ahead.