New York City streets are nearly empty. Most restaurants and bars have been shuttered. Tens of thousands of hospitality workers have been laid off. COVID-19 has, at least temporarily, completely altered the city and its way of life.
Just a week ago, most restaurants were being filled to capacity, even with the specter of pandemic looming over us. Then, in head-spinning fashion, things began to change, at first by the day and then by the hour.
Here is a photo recap of the wildest week in New York City restaurant history.
Remember last Friday? At the beginning of Friday, March 13, there were fewer than 100 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in New York City. Restaurants could operate normally, save for some casual racism against Chinese restaurants. Places like Nom Wah had reported a 40 percent drop in business.
By 5 p.m. on Friday, all restaurants and bars needed to start operating at 50 percent capacity to allow for “social distancing” to slow the spread of the virus.
Superiority Burger placed blow up dolls in its chairs so people wouldn’t sit inside. This kid is wondering why it’s Halloween in March.
Every diner and vendor’s temperature was read three times using an infrared thermometer before being allowed to enter Sushi Katsuei.
By Saturday, March 14, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in New York City had risen to 185. Popular restaurants that are usually packed shoulder to shoulder like Buvette and Via Carota removed tables to create social distancing.
Large crowds of people continued to gather in attempts to continue partaking in the city’s nightlife scene. In Greenwich Village, people who were turned away from the Comedy Cellar pack the sidewalk.
Gotham Bar and Grill became one of the first restaurants to shut down permanently in the age of COVID-19. They threw a bash that could very well have been New York City’s last big party for a long time.
Crowds of Sunday brunchgoers continued to line up in front of Five Leaves in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Riley Goodside stood outside with a sign calling for the cancellation of brunch. “We have to take this seriously,” said Goodside. “Most of us will be fine, but our parents will not be.”
Shaheer Brewster regulated the number of customers allowed to enter Paulie G’s Slice Shop in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.
On Monday, March 16, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in New York had shot up to 464, and the state declared that all restaurants had to shut down by 8 p.m. except for takeout and delivery. Many of the city’s restaurants, bars, and cafes temporarily shut down.
Le Gamin in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, gets set up for takeout and delivery service only. “There is no end in sight,” said founder and owner Le Gamin. “This is different.”
Bars and restaurants got a brief reprieve: On Tuesday, March 17, New York’s State Liquor Authority loosened alcohol sales laws and began allowing takeout and delivery wine and liquor. “We’re just trying to be a little beam of light for some people,” said Patent Pending general manager Nicholas Ruiz.
By Tuesday, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in New York City almost doubled to 923. Here, a person dressed up as a plague doctor waits for customers outside McDonald’s in Times Square.
Major Food Group’s most famous restaurant, upscale red-sauce restaurant Carbone, began Caviar delivery and had such a rush of orders that a mob of couriers formed outside the restaurant. Police reportedly showed up to manage the chaos.
On Wednesday, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases more than doubled to 2,009. With a lack of customers, most street food vendors began to flee the city.
More restaurants joined the delivery and take out game to weather the storm, including Niche Niche and Tokyo Record Bar. “Fuck, I’ll package Champagne and caviar,” said owner Ariel Arce. “My dream!” Here, employee Sarah Fernandez puts deliveries into bags.
On Thursday, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in New York City hit almost 4,000 as residents and restaurants settled into a new normal. Customers drank beers while waiting for their takeout order in an empty Peter Luger’s Steakhouse bar room.
Many restaurants are now shuttered, including the West Village J.G. Melon, pictured here. Thousands of newly laid-off employees are trying to figure out a way to get some support. And the businesses still standing are struggling to weather the storm, but staying hopeful. “We’re going to get through this,” said Dante owner Linden Pride.