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The Big Apple’s second round of limited indoor dining will have slimmer pickings for restaurant-goers than last time. While thousands of places will once again welcome customers eager to be out of the cold starting today [Feb 12], many popular eateries that reopened last fall aren’t biting at the second reopening allowed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Most owners and chefs including Daniel Boulud, Jean-Georges Vongerichten and the Tao Group were glad to let diners in after months of sidewalk and takeout/delivery service only.
But among places which served indoors until Dec. 14 but will remain dark for now are three-Michelin-starred French seafood palace Le Bernardin, Danny Meyer’s famous modern-American restaurants, David Chang’s popular Momofuku noodle bars and at least two premier steakhouses.
Holdout owners won’t reopen again until capacity rises to 50 percent. Others fear a second out-of-the-blue shutdown by mercurial Cuomo, which “would be beyond demoralizing having to lay people off again,” an insider said.
Le Bernardin chef/owner Eric Ripert decided to delay reopening just a week after he trumpeted the Valentine’s Day return on Instagram. “I was excited when the governor made the announcement and I rushed,” he said.
“But then I thought about the challenges,” which included “bringing back our staff scattered around the country so quickly,” the bottom-line challenge of one-quarter capacity combined with a 10 p.m. curfew, and normally slow business in the second half of February. Ripert now hopes to reopen in March.
Meyer’s Union Square Café and Gramercy Tavern briefly reopened last fall indoors. This time, “We’re still ironing out a reopening timeline that makes the most sense,” a spokesperson said. Similarly, Chang’s Noodle Bar East Village on First Avenue and Noodle Bar Uptown at Time Warner Center “are still assessing the feasibility” of reopening a second time, their rep said.
Chef/owner Michael Lomonaco’s top-rated steakhouse at Time Warner Center, Porter House New York, reopened in November but he won’t resume service until 50 percent capacity is allowed and the curfew is lifted.
“Twenty-five percent was just too small for us, and then the curfew made it tougher,” Lomonaco said. The 10 p.m. rule hit just weeks after Cuomo permitted indoor service last starting on Sept. 30.
Another large steakhouse biding its time is 200-seat Bobby Van’s at 230 Park Ave. “It’s normally a great location but right now [the area] is empty,” said owner Ricky Passarelli. We’ll wait until the crowds come back.” The restaurant’s outdoor seating won’t reopen either “until we have warmer weather,” Passarelli said. (Several other Bobby Van’s locations, which have different owners, will be open indoors).
Italian favorite Portale on West 18th Street will reopen indoors this weekend only. Beyond that, “We’re getting a handle on things,” said a manager. French-inspired brasserie Rue 57 at Sixth Avenue and West 57th Street won’t immediately reopen, either, due to lack of tourists and office workers at the normally bustling corner.
Food lovers will also have to wait longer for beloved places that sat out the first reopening, including Balthazar, the Polo Bar, Le Coucou, Carmine’s in Times Square and Trattoria dell ‘Arte and RedEye Grill near Carnegie Hall. No reopening dates have been announced.
But the good news is that in most neighborhoods, customers won’t have to brave freezing temperatures in poorly heated tents, igloos and “yurts.”
Restaurant advocates had pressured Cuomo to reinstate indoor dining to prevent the industry’s collapse. More than 1,000 city places have closed since the Covid-19 pandemic struck last winter. Critics claimed that indoor dining was too dangerous despite state data which showed a mere 1.6 percent of infections were spread inside restaurants.
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