Where we are now: New York City after a year in the grip of pandemic

Nearly a year since the beginning of the pandemic, neighborhoods once filled with office workers and tourists remain emptied out, devastating restaurants and other businesses that survived on day time foot traffic.

Restaurants in residential neighborhoods have fared somewhat better, but still face significant occupancy restrictions and were only recently permitted to resume indoor dining, months into a cold winter.

“There just isn’t the foot traffic to support it,” said Susan Povich, the owner of the Red Hook Lobster Pound, who closed her Manhattan locations last year and doesn’t have plans to reopen them. Business at her Red Hook location has been better, but sales early this month were still off 50 percent from where they were before the lockdown last year.

A recent survey from the NYC Hospitality Alliance, an industry group, reported more than 90 percent of restaurants, bars and nightlife spots couldn’t pay their full rent in December, and the group estimates 140,000 jobs have been lost since last March.

Andrew Rigie, executive director of the alliance, notes countless restaurants are being kept open artificially by an ongoing moratorium on commercial evictions and other temporary measures, while businesses grow desperate for financial relief that has not yet materialized. Lifting protections without adequate assistance, Rigie warns, will “compound the crisis in a way you can’t even fathom.”