New restaurants open in NYC despite surge in COVID-19 cases

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JJBers | Flickr

Gabriel Rivera

New York City’s small businesses have suffered some of the biggest casualties of the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 2,800 businesses across the five boroughs have closed their doors permanently since the pandemic brought the city that never sleeps to a halt.

Almost a third of the small restaurants and eateries that characterize the busy streets of New York make up that total, according to The New York Times.

While outdoor dining has offered some solace to eateries struggling to stay afloat, most are unable to compensate for the tremendous losses in revenue caused by the pandemic.

Despite these unfavorable circumstances, resilient New Yorkers are still fighting. Throughout the city, dozens of restaurants slated to open their doors for the first time to customers in need of relief from these bleak times.

Krispy Kreme was the largest name to announce the opening of a new establishment in New York City during the pandemic. The company unveiled its new 4,500 square foot shop, located in Times Square in September, nearly four months after it originally intended to open.

“We all need a little joy right now and with that we welcome the Krispy Kreme flagship location to the heart of this great city,” said Tim Tompkins, President of the Times Square Alliance. “We’re thrilled for New Yorkers and visitors to enjoy the one-of-a-kind treats and the famous Hot Light experience. This iconic brand will make Times Square sweeter and we can’t wait to take a bite.”

With the opening of the flagship store, Krispy Kreme hopes to reenergize the stagnant tourist and food industry of Times Square.

“Times Square is coming back. It’s not the Times Square we all know, but people are so excited and happy to see us here,” Sara Carvell, the general manager of the new location, said. “I’ve seen people get very emotional to have something to go to.”

Elsewhere, small restaurant owners are opening in hopes to create the same effect in their local communities.

Chintan Pandya and Roni Mazumdar had previously opened several successful Indian restaurants and had plans to open another, Dhamaka, in the spring before the pandemic forced the city to lockdown. Now, the duo is ready to open the doors to their new restaurant and introduce their Indian cuisine on the Lower East Side.

For other restaurants, the pandemic has given a chance for a fresh start.

In March, Amy Mascena had to close several of the restaurants she managed. Now, in the patio space of one of her recently closed stores, she opened the pop-up shop, SweetTalk, which offers consumers a chance to go on a tropical vacation through their native Hawaiin food.

“New York is about going out and being with people,” Mascena said. “We all lived through Sept. 11. We don’t like to see the city suffering. SweetTalk was like a birth. And starting over.”

These restaurants will be aided in their efforts to open their establishments by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s recent decision to begin easing restrictions on indoor dining.

Last month, Cuomo announced he would allow restaurants in New York City to permit indoor diners at 25% capacity.

While this move will certainly help restaurants generate more revenue at a time when they desperately need it, some medical experts are warning of the potential health risks.

“The risks related to indoor dining relate to how many people are crowded into a space and setting,” Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former FDA Commissioner, said to CNBC. “Some are safer than others… so it really is going to be variable from restaurant to restaurant.”

The owners of these restaurants are hoping the worst of the pandemic has passed and their opening doors will be a welcoming sight for any New Yorkers in search of normalcy.