Three weeks ago, Carlos had an internship in finance lined up for the summer and was planning to channel years of social activism, beginning in middle school, into a job in impact investing. But as protesters flooded the streets of New York, the 21-year-old Dartmouth student declined his internship offer and headed out to join them. Read more at NY Mag…
While many of the city’s bars and restaurants have sprung back to life– causing Mayor de Blasio to complain of “troubling overcrowding” on Monday– the state of drinking and dining in the Financial District is proof that it’s going to be a while before business gets back to normal.
Even with the possibility of outdoor dining, some FiDi establishments are still hesitant to reopen for customers. The two-story Irish bar Dead Rabbit—repeatedly named World’s Best Bar— closed its doors on March 16—one day before its biggest day of the year, St. Patrick’s Day– and has remained closed ever since.
The bar relies heavily on clients coming from the Wall Street and Battery Park area, as well as tourists. With offices still closed and tourists not looking to visit anytime soon, Dead Rabbit won’t reopen until after Labor Day, when business typically picks up after the slower summer months. “I think being in the Financial District makes our situation a little more unique than being maybe uptown, the Village or the Lower East Side [where] there’s a little bit more foot traffic,” said Jillian Vose, the bar’s beverage director and managing director.
Since mid-March, foot traffic in the Financial District has sharply decreased, and there has been no sign of recovery as workers are still staying at home, according to a June 2020 report by location data company Unacast. Looking at mobility traffic of residents, locals, workers and out-of-town tourists, the report finds that visitation, such as use of public areas and parks, from all of these groups except for residents has remained near zero, despite the gradual reopening of the city.
Dead Rabbit has been using this time to consider its options, wait for more guidance from the city, and devise a longer term plan to reopen. “We are probably going to be doing to-go cocktails for longer than just [the] pandemic,” Vose said, adding that she hopes to keep serving them “hopefully a year and a half to two years while the government allows us to make it part of our business.” In September, the bar will add delivery to its revenue stream.
While Dead Rabbit plans its return, longtime neighborhood fixtures China Chalet and Paris Cafe have shuttered permanently. A Chinese restaurant by day and scenester party spot by night, 45-year-old China Chalet was “one of the many businesses affected by the national lockdown,” the owner told WWD after rumors of its closure caused an outpouring of nostalgia on social media. The 147-year-old Paris Cafe, one of downtown’s oldest bars, announced its closure in May, via a Facebook post: “Through no fault of anyone but the outbreak of this virus we are unable to forge a way forward that makes economic sense,” the post read. “We had no option but to close our doors.” Both establishments had survived previous disasters that took a financial toll on the neighborhood, including 9/11, the Great Recession of 2007-2009, and Superstorm Sandy.
Around the corner from the Paris Cafe, on Beekman Street, the neighborhood bar Fresh Salt was closed until outdoor dining was allowed. “Even when they offered that you could reopen as an essential business selling food, I just didn’t feel safe and comfortable sending people on the train every day, come to work,” explained owner Sara WIlliams. “We stayed closed until mid-June, and applied for the PPP loan and other SBA loans.”
For the time being, Fresh Salt has limited hours on weekdays; it’s open from 4pm to 11pm, compared to the normal 11am to 4am. “Obviously that affects our sales, and we’re at a reduced capacity because people can only be outside and at the tables,” said Williams. “We’re down by like at least 50 to 60 percent.” While outdoor dining isn’t bringing in a lot of revenue, Williams said she would like the roadway dining order to be extended past its current expiration date of September 8. “I think they should continue it through October to keep people outside as long as possible, weather permitting,” she added.
Other bars in the area have also arranged their own outdoor seating, but Tellis Liberatos, the owner of Cedar Local, said it still wouldn’t be enough. “The weather in New York in the summertime is not really that friendly,” he said. “It’s hot, humid and rainy, so it’s not the best comfortable situation for people to sit outside, as opposed to being inside with AC in a nice bar.” Liberatos added that the customer experience wouldn’t be the same without the ambience and music inside the bar.
To stay afloat, Cedar Local has opened up for delivery. Although the bar’s food and drinks weren’t originally formulated for delivery, Liberatos has adapted by pre-batching cocktails and reducing prices to accommodate the reduced quality. Big bites that used to be around $16 are now $10 each, and most small bites are $4. “I’m just trying to look at both sides of the spectrum, on my end and also the customers, to make sure that, you know, they’re getting a value for the burger that’s not the same as it would have been with dining in.”
Even when the city has managed to flatten the curve, Financial District bars are reopening with a lot of caution. “Now we’re looking at New York [that] has really done a good job of keeping the numbers very low,” said Vose. “The last thing that we want to do is be part of the problem of a spike.”
Last week we noted that several of the New York City area’s summer film festivals are– quite delightfully– taking the form of drive-in movie theaters. On Friday, Rooftop Films started its Brooklyn Drive-In with a screening of John Lewis: Good Trouble (eerily, news of the congressman’s death broke right after the documentary’s screening) and today the consummate curators have announced the details of their forthcoming Queens Drive-In. More →
When Eugene Cleghorn and Sam Neely moved to New York from San Francisco back in 2007, they realized they had a problem. “There were, like, no burritos,” said Cleghorn. They had grown up chowing down on Mission-style burritos, the steamed and stuffed gut bombs pioneered in their hometown as a cheap eat for hungry workers. But in New York, pizza had always played that role, and the burrito had never taken hold. The duo decided that, one day, they would make this city taste a real burrito. More →
Amidst the controversy surrounding the decision to cut $1 billion in funding from the NYPD, one thing went virtually unnoticed when the City Council passed a budget last month: Some $4.1 million was dedicated to “support people involved in the sex trade,” according to a line buried in the press release. More →
When New York’s stay-at-home order went into effect in March, Siobhan O’Loughlin immediately panicked. Since 2015, she had been touring around the world for her theater project Broken Bone Bathtub, which usually takes place inside of a bathroom in someone’s home for an audience of however many people can fit—usually, five to 12. How could an artist whose work hinged on such immersive experiences survive the age of Zoom? More →
When theaters went dark in March, film festivals quickly adapted by curating content online, but let’s face it, summer has come and you’re not about to watch a movie on your laptop, with a desk fan blasting torrents of sweat off your face. Luckily the organizers of the city’s great seasonal film festivals– including Tribeca Films, Rooftop Films, and the Greenpoint Film Festival– have risen to the occasion with pop-up drive-in movie theaters. More →
Sabrina Chap had been avoiding protests in the city due to health concerns when she had a vision, mid-shower, of New Yorkers dancing simultaneously in their apartments to the music of Nina Simone. To the musician, it seemed like a workable alternative to traditional in-the-streets protest.
When New York City set its historic curfew on June 1, she saw an opportunity. “I felt that they were trying to intimidate us inside and quell our voices,” Chap said, “and I was like, well, fuck that, let’s just turn up the volume in our homes.” So Chap created @audioprotest. More →
After more than three months of lockdown, anxious New Yorkers are craving some self-care. With the city having entered phase 3 of its reopening on July 6, they can now go to the spa… but are they climbing back onto the massage table? And what sort of safety precautions are in place?
Ngoc Dinh was still considering her options for the fall academic semester when Immigration and Customs Enforcement left her with no choice.
A July 6 announcement from ICE’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) states that students on F-1 and M-1 visas will not be allowed to remain in the U.S. if their schools go completely online. This would affect both students who remained in the U.S. to complete their spring 2020 semester online, and those who came back to their country in mid-March. If schools decide to go with a hybrid or in-person model, students who want to stay must take at least one in-person course to keep their student records with SEVP active. More →