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NY Restaurants Hit Hard by Indoor Dining Drop-Off Over the Past Month, Survey Says

Plus, South Bronx burger shop Milk Burger is headed to the Lower East Side — and more intel

A waiter at Le Pain Quotiden wearing a mask looks at his phone near rows of empty tables during lunch hours.
Customer demand for indoor dining declined in January.
Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images
Erika Adams is the editor of Eater Boston.

New York’s omicron-fueled spike in COVID-19 cases has unsurprisingly dealt another blow to the state’s battle-weary restaurants. According to a January survey released by the New York State Restaurant Association, 93 percent of restaurant respondents have seen a decline in demand for indoor dining in recent weeks and 86 percent of restaurants report that “business conditions” are worse now than they were three months ago.

Reservations platforms, too, have noted the recent declines in demand for indoor dining. OpenTable reported a 64 percent decrease in Manhattan bookings in January 2022 as compared to the same period two years ago, according to the New York Post. Reservations were down by 55 percent in Brooklyn.

In response to the recent surge in case counts, 55 percent of restaurants reduced their operating hours; 26 percent reduced seating capacity; and 7 percent temporarily moved to takeout and delivery-only. The vast majority of restaurant owners are pushing for replenishment of the federal Restaurant Revitalization Fund to keep their doors open, and the NYSRA is calling on the state government to reenact other measures of support, including permanently legalizing to-go cocktails. The survey was conducted in January 2022 and included responses from 335 New York restaurateurs.

Why haven’t to-go cocktails returned yet? Ask the state liquor store lobbyists.

Speaking of to-go cocktails, the New York Times dove deep into why efforts to make the measure permanent have repeatedly hit roadblocks in the past two years. In short, the state’s deep-pocketed liquor store lobbyists — who are particularly aggrieved at the idea of restaurants being able to sell bottles of wines and spirits — have been extremely busy. A PAC, or political action committee, run by the Metropolitan Package Store Association, has dropped $140,000 in political contributions to various state lawmakers over the past year, as compared to $20,000 from two restaurant industry PACs, according to the Times.

Hundreds of street vendors rally in Times Square

Over 400 street vendors showed up for last week’s rally and march from Herald Square to Times Square, BK Reader reports. The vendors, along with elected officials including state senator Jessica Ramos, mobilized to call attention to proposed state legislation that will lessen the amount of government restrictions on vending, such as the total number of permits in circulation, and decrease the amount of fines and tickets that vendors are subjected to across the state.

A Bronx burger shop expands to the Lower East Side

Bowery Boogie reports that popular South Bronx burger shop Milk Burger is opening a second outpost on the Lower East Side — at 321 East Houston Street, near Attorney Street — a couple doors down from neighborhood mainstay Clinton Street Baking Company.