The city’s restaurants and performing arts are why tourists flock to New York — but thanks to the coronavirus, those industries are bracing for a long haul of nothing.
While take-out and delivery is still available in many restaurants, that hasn’t helped the legions of wait staff and associated “front-of-house” workers and suppliers.
“It’s been devastating to the restaurant industry,” said Andrew Rigie, executive director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance.
“We’ve laid off tens of thousands and it will reach hundreds of thousands — and there’s no end in sight,” he said.
“People are losing their livelihood. We are the streetscape — it’s why people love New York so much. We are part of the cultural fabric of what makes us such an amazing and unique place.”
And the restaurants that are providing delivery are being gouged by the big delivery services, he complained.
“One of the things the mayor can do — or the governor — is to use their executive power to cap third party delivery fees at no more than 10 percent,” Rigie said.
“Currently companies like Grubhub take 15 to 30 percent of each order from each restaurant. Which is unsustainable in a strong market and during a crisis is highway robbery.
“Call the restaurant’s direct number or go through their direct website,” he advises. “Then there’s no third party fee.
“We also need to forgive rent. If they’re closed for 2, 3, 4 months there’s no way they’ll be able to pay that back rent,” he said of shuttered restaurants, urging that Albany or Washington figure out a way to compensate restaurants or their landlords directly.
Employment training and placement programs like those run by the non-profit Henry Street Settlement are feeling the strain.
“Nearly 100 percent of our clients that we’ve helped to facilitate employment in the hospitality sector have been laid off, with only a handful receiving a reductions in hours,” said Matt Phifer, Henry Street’s vice president of education and employment.
Some workplaces are reducing employees hours to 20 weeks or less — “In some cases they don’t have to pay that employee’s medical insurance and other benefits,” he said.
“We often deal with economic uncertainty, but this is unprecedented,” said Brandon Lorenz, spokesman for the Actors’ Equity Association, which represents 51,000 actors and stage managers nationwide.
“But this is unprecedented uncertainty. There are actors and stage managers wondering how they are going to make the rent on April 1,” he said.
“It’s really a double hit. It’s not knowing when we might get back to business as usual, but for so many they’ve accepted offers, and it was income they planned for, but it’s all gone up in smoke.
“There are many thousands who had planned to be on stage in two weeks, and they have no idea if and when those jobs will be there.”
Broadway shut down on March 12, with the order from Albany banning gatherings of 500 people or more. Since then, Equity has launched a fund to help desperate members cover rent, food and medical treatment.
The Broadway League — the national trade association repping theater owners, producers, presenters, and suppliers of goods and services — on March 20 reached an agreement to provide two and a half weeks of pay for many members.
Still, “Next week that will run out,” league president Charlotte St. Martin told The Post.
“And when that runs out, there’s no plan in place for what happens after. Many shows won’t open again. Several have canceled already or been postponed until the fall. It depends on how long we’re out,” she said.
Freelancers and “gig” workers are hoping from relief from the federal stimulus package making its way through Congress, Lorenz noted. “We need everything in that federal stimulus and we need more,” he said.
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