A slew of more high-profile and prolific restaurateurs have decided to temporarily close in a COVID-19 curbing measure: David Chang, Masa Takayama, Daniel Boulud, Alex Stupak, popular chain Xi’an Famous Foods, and the large Quality Branded and Blue Ribbon Sushi Group restaurants have all opted to close most or all of the restaurants.
Chang today closed his eclectic Momofuku restaurants in New York, Los Angeles, and Washington D.C., “until further notice,” the group announced on its website, citing local, state, and federal health recommendations. Among Momofuku’s New York venues closing are Nishi, Kawi, Noodle Bar Columbus Circle and East Village, Ssam Bar, and the company’s most expensive venue, Ko.
“We are making hard decisions across the company to ensure that once we get through this crisis, there is a Momofuku to return to,” the group wrote.
Salaried Momofuku employees will take a reduction in pay, while hourly employees will be paid through March 20th, the group reported. Staffers who have been with the company for longer than five years will be paid through April 3rd. Hourly workers with health insurance will have access to that benefit through the end of April. The company said it will also assist employees in getting tested, and if necessary, treated for the novel coronavirus.
Michael Stillman’s Quality Branded also announced it was temporarily shuttering all 10 New York restaurants after dinner service on Saturday. The group’s restaurants include the creative Italian-American spot Don Angie, the Quality Meats chophouse, and the renowned steakhouse Smith & Wollensky.
Stillman wrote in an emailed announcement that he hopes the closures are “short lived,” and added that the group is “working to lessen the impact of this temporary measure on our staff.” Quality Branded is offering the City Harvest charity the restaurants’ perishable goods as donations.
Boulud’s portfolio includes high-end restaurants like Daniel, while Stupak is known for a collection of popular Mexican restaurants under the Empellon moniker. Three of his four restaurants will shut down temporarily; in an Instagram post, he said he cannot close the fourth because it’s in a hotel and people being held there still need to eat.
Esteemed sushi maker Masa’s luxe Time Warner Center omakase Masa, its accompanying Bar Masa, and Kappo Masa on the Upper East Side will close starting Monday, with a tentative reopening date of March 24.
Momofuku, Quality, Xi’an Famous Foods, Blue Ribbon are among the biggest set of closures. Fast-casual Chinese chain Xi’an has more than a dozen locations across Manhattan, Queens, and Brooklyn. The company’s website notes a March 22 expected reopening date.
And Blue Ribbon has closed 11 restaurants across the city, including popular fried chicken and sushi restaurants. The Ribbon in Midtown and the UWS will remain open. It’s one of the larger full-service restaurant groups to announce closures, next to Union Square Hospitality Group, which said on Friday that it would close its 21 restaurants in New York and D.C. as a safety measure.
“The right thing for us is to shut until the spread gets under control. We need a plan and it needs to be made visible to us,” Stupak said in his Instagram post. “Our team no longer feels safe and gatherings at half capacity is asinine.”
New York has had a growing number of cases since the new coronavirus started to spread last week. On Saturday morning, the state had its first death from the pandemic, an 82-year-old woman with an underlying medical condition.
As more and more cases come up — and officials predict the numbers will rise to 1,000 by next week — Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio asked that all venues that seat under 500 people cut capacity in half or close down, including restaurants and bars. It’s a measure in hopes of limiting the spread of the disease. Though most people will only suffer minor symptoms, experts say that nixing public gatherings is the only way to keep the hospital system from being overloaded. Already, the biggest hospital systems in the area have made moves like canceling nonemergency surgeries and turning a pediatric emergency room into space for adults.
“We are heeding the relevant legal warnings and mandates and unlike other catastrophic events that have befallen us in the past, a place of gathering is not in the public’s best interest right now,” Blue Ribbon’s owners the Bromberg brothers said in an email to customers.
“Blue Ribbon has always been that place, in fact there are hundreds of NYC restaurants that we all flock to in times of trouble, which is why this decision is just so tough for all of us in the restaurant and hospitality industry.”
This post has been updated to reflect that Blue Ribbon’s restaurants the Ribbon will remain open and to add new major closures.
Disclosure: David Chang is producing shows for Hulu in partnership with Vox Media Studios, part of Eater’s parent company, Vox Media. No Eater staff member is involved in the production of those shows, and this does not impact coverage on Eater.