Casual Upper West Side restaurant Oxbow Tavern — led by well-known fine dining chef Tom Valenti — is permanently shutting down due to economic hardship due to the pandemic, the restaurant announced on social media.
The restaurant’s owners said that they couldn’t keep paying the bills for Oxbow Tavern’s current location while waiting for the dining industry to return to pre-pandemic spending levels, which they estimate could take years. They are planning to reopen after the COVID-19 crisis has completely passed.
“Better to wipe the slate clean, not accumulate a mountain of debt, and sign a new lease when the dust settles,” the owners said in the public announcement.
Valenti was a high-profile draw for Oxbow Tavern, which opened on the UWS in April 2018. Before launching the tavern, the chef ran longtime neighborhood stalwart Ouest and had done stints at some of the city’s most recognizable fine dining institutions, including Gotham Bar and Grill. At Oxbow, he built a French-influenced menu focused on hearty, rustic dishes like braised pork ragout, pan roasted East Coast halibut, and grilled hangar steak. The low-key spot attracted many neighborhood regulars and received critical praise during its run, including an appreciative review by New Yorker restaurant critic Hannah Goldfield.
But it doesn’t make sense to keep Oxbow Tavern running in the current environment with COVID-19 operating restrictions, the owners said. “The notion that we should operate under a government-mandated limited occupancy is unworkable,” the announcement reads. “The restaurant business is hard enough when you’re at 100% occupancy!”
Restaurants are currently allowed to only offer takeout and delivery in the city; for many, those sales only account for a fraction of normal dine-in revenue. When restaurants are allowed to reopen their dining rooms for indoor dining, the move will come with heavy operating restrictions, including a 50 percent reduction in seating capacity.