Restaurateur Danny Meyer announced in an email Friday that Union Square Cafe, Gramercy Tavern, and Blue Smoke at Battery Park City — all part of the Union Square Hospitality Group family — would close for on-premises dining.
“Given the growing number of positive COVID-19 cases in New York City, and even within our own USHG community, we are making the decision that is in the best interest of the health and safety of our people,” Meyer writes in the letter.
All three restaurants will remain open for takeout and delivery, and both Gramercy Tavern and Blue Smoke are also doing nationwide shipping. USHG appears to be the first major restaurant group in the city — or restaurant for that matter — to preemptively shut indoor and outdoor dining in response to the rising cases, which had reached 3.02 percent positivity on a seven-day rolling average, according city data. The decision Friday, mirrors the one made in March, where the restaurant group decided to close all its restaurants just a few days before the state-mandated shutdown order came in.
Nearly 100 employees were laid off as a result of this latest shutdown, a spokesperson for USHG tells Eater. The spokesperson said the employees would receive two weeks worth of salary and health insurance through January 1, 2021. Back in March, USHG was forced to lay off 2,000 employees due to the shutdown order.
USHG’s other restaurants that are currently open — Daily Provisions and Tacocina — will continue to operate as takeout and delivery spots for the remainder of the year. USHG said the restaurants would remain closed for on-premises dining at least through the end of this year, and Meyer said in his letter that outdoor dining would return “the minute winter weather is behind us and the environment returns to feeling safe.”
While there have been instances of restaurants in the city deciding to shutdown temporarily for the winter months due to the limits on indoor dining, this appears to be the first instance of restaurants shutting indoor and outdoor dining in response to this latest spike in cases. In early March, many restaurants across the city decided to shutdown preemptively ahead of the shutdown order.
This time around, many restaurants across the city are equipped with heated outdoor dining areas, and neither Mayor Bill de Blasio nor Gov. Andrew Cuomo have indicated plans to strip restaurants of outdoor dining. Still, based on the current spike in cases, de Blasio has predicted that indoor dining will come to a half in the first week of December.
Restaurants have already been struggling with a combination of outdoor dining and indoor dining at 25 percent. A recent survey conducted by the NYC Hospitality Alliance revealed that 88 percent of restaurants weren’t able to pay full rent in October. Industry experts predict that without federal aid — discussions on which have currently stalled — and the fact that colder weather will likely make outdoor dining extremely difficult, more restaurants are likely to close in the coming months.