According to the survey by the NYC Hospitality Alliance, 92 percent of the more than 400 respondents struggled to make the rent. That figure has steadily increased from 80 percent in June and has now surpassed 90 percent.
Leaders of the alliance have continually stressed that the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting restrictions have caused thousands of eating and drinking establishments to permanently close. In the last year, the hospitality industry lost more than 140,000 jobs.
“We’re nearly a year into the public health and economic crisis that has decimated New York City’s restaurants, bars and nightlife venues,” said Andrew Rigie, executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance.
The survey also found that only 40 percent of respondents’ landlords reduced the rent in response to the pandemic. About 36 percent of landlords deferred the rent, and just 14 percent of businesses successfully renegotiated their leases.
The majority of respondents did not successfully negotiate their lease, while 24 percent are engaged in “good faith” negotiations, according to the survey.
The results of the survey were released just days after indoor dining at 25 percent in New York City restarted for Valentine’s Day weekend. On Friday, Governor Andrew Cuomo increased the indoor dining capacity to 35 percent starting on February 26.
The governor noted that indoor dining capacity is at 50 percent in Connecticut and on Long Island. Increasing New York City’s capacity to 35 percent would be “consistent” with New Jersey, which also allows indoor dining at the same capacity.
“Obviously we’re more sensitive to New York City because of the density, the concentration, the history,” he said. “But we’re headed in the right direction. We’re making progress.”
Rigie has called for increasing the occupancy to 50 percent as soon as possible, as well as financial relief from the federal government. Among the bills he hopes is included in President Joe Biden’s relief plan is the RESTAURANTS Act, which would create a $25 billion recovery fund just for the bar and restaurant industries.
“We appreciate that the governor is following the data, listening to our voices, increasing occupancy,” Rigie said, “and we hope to continue this path and increase to at least 50 percent occupancy safely as soon as possible.”
Tom Grech, president and CEO of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, wants the reopenings to go further. He called for not only 50 percent capacity for indoor dining by March 1, but 100 percent capacity by St. Patrick’s Day.
“The pandemic has been hard on business owners, especially those in the restaurant industry,” he said. “The return of indoor dining at 25 percent capacity has been a help to these struggling businesses, and we welcome the increase to 35 percent, but we must do more.”