The COVID-19 pandemic and efforts to stop it have turned every restaurant in New York City into a ghost kitchen.
After the single most disruptive week in restaurant history, the past seven days have seen a kind of eerie stability. With restrictions that allow eateries and bars to operate only as takeout and delivery operations firmly in place, the entrepreneurial spirit of New York’s restaurateurs has started kicking into gear. High-end establishments worked out how to fit Michelin-starred dining experiences into carryout containers, while cocktail bars turned themselves into wine shops. One bar used Zoom to broadcast a dance party from its empty dance floor on Saturday night.
New Yorkers are often cited as being extra resilient and adaptable, especially in the face of crisis. With the city quickly becoming the new epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic — a unique kind of crisis that literally prevents people from coming together — that resiliency is being put to the test.
Air’s Champagne Parlor owner Ariel Arce hands a take-out bottle of sake to Sara Graham and James Plumb. “It’s date night and we still wanted to get dressed up,” Plumb said. The couple had walked over from the East Village in a tuxedo and a dress from Rent the Runway to pick up takeout.
On Friday night, a mob of Caviar delivery workers and patrons massed outside of Carbone in Greenwich Village. Police were eventually called in to disperse the crowds.
Customers were given gloves to handle menus for Fausto’s cellar sale — an idea many restaurants leaned on to raise funds for their workers or to just get through the crisis.
On Saturday night, Short Stories in the East Village hosted a Zoom Dance-a-thon by broadcasting an empty restaurant while playing pre-recorded DJ sets from a laptop.
By Sunday, as the number of COVID-19 cases in New York City shot past 10,000, takeout and delivery orders were few and far between for many of the restaurants that chose to stay open.
Packed with people eating brunch just one week earlier, Five Leaves in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, has not been open since.
Restaurants and bars have created an impressive variety of makeshift barricades to prevent people from sitting down.
An important development of the last seven days: New Yorkers finally learned how to socially distance while waiting in line.
Some seemed to stand just a little bit further away from Asian people, though.
New York has started to settle into a new normal with takeout and delivery only. Here, Eric Ao and Andy Lam organize takeout bags at Birds of a Feather in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
Cocktail bars like Hotel Delmano and Sauvage turned themselves into makeshift wine shops, thanks to a loosening of regulations over takeout and delivery booze.
Supermarket shelves around the city were re-stocked, though packages of toilet paper were still limited to one per customer.
A lone takeout order waits for a customer in an empty dining room of Michelin-starred Sushi Yasuda in Midtown.
On Wednesday, the number of COVID-19 cases in New York City topped 20,000. The following day, the United States became the epicenter of the disease, with its 81,000 cases exceeding even China and Italy’s counts. Weekly jobless claims soared past 3 million, shattering the previous record of 600,000.
On Friday, the House is expected to pass a Senate-approved $2 trillion relief bill that will add an additional $600 a week to unemployment payments for the tens of thousands of laid off restaurant workers in the city, and provide $350 billion in small business interruption loans, which may help some of the city’s independent restaurants weather the crisis.