NEW YORK (PNN) - September 11, 2020 - Restaurant owner Danny Abrams opened a restaurant six blocks from the World Trade Center site six weeks after the events of September 11, 2001.
Even during that difficult time, the restaurant was welcomed by the city with more than 100 covers a night for the first year.
“But this is very different,” Abrams said. “It’s hard to compare.”
This, of course, is the “pandemic”.
Abrams and his partner, Cindy Smith, run seven restaurants in New York. They recently made the difficult decision to close The Mermaid Inn in the East Village after more than 17 years.
“I think there’s a restaurant-closing tsunami on the way,” Abrams said. “It’s going to happen after September. They’re not seeing a wave of closings yet because people are still trying to hang on and people are still playing with some of the PPP (Payroll Protection Program) they might’ve gotten.”
The Mermaid Inn, which was known by locals for its happy hour deals, had about 80 seats inside, 20 in the garden, and 16 on the sidewalk. Abrams said it typically did strong business in the spring and summer, before quieting in the winter.
“We really needed May, June, July, August (and) September,” he said. “If we miss that window and then get to do 50% in October (and) 50% in November? Forget about it.”
Abrams and Smith wrote a detailed letter, explaining the closure and detailing the current pressures on independent restaurant operators, and shared it on their Facebook page.
The two are currently doing everything they can to reduce expenses at their existing restaurants, to try to stay afloat until this crisis passes.
“It’s all about survival right now,” he said. “I want to be the last man standing.”
The following illustrates what one single restaurant adds to its community and to the city. Many restaurants have closed since COVID and many more will close as the “pandemic” continues. The ripple effect will be incalculable.
Over the years, The Mermaid Inn on Second Ave has:
- Welcomed over 850,000 guests
- Paid over $15 million in wages to its more than 2,000 employees
- Contributed more than $2.1 million in taxes to the city, state, Medicare, Social Security, Unemployment Insurance, etc
- Sent in excess of $4 million in sales tax to New York state
- Paid over $ 15 million to its hundreds of hard-working vendors
- Given hundreds of thousands of dollars to the city and state for permits, licenses, etc.
These numbers show the effect that the closing of a single restaurant has. Now multiply that by thousands of New York City restaurant closings. The loss of opportunity for employees, income for city, state and local governments, sales to fish companies, vegetable companies, meat suppliers, linen companies, and so many more suppliers and providers is unimaginable. If they are not paid then they do not pay their employees, and so on and so on. The chain is never ending.
The restaurant and hospitality industry has been woefully neglected during this “pandemic”. Actually, all small businesses have. The Payroll Protection Program has given us eight weeks of funds for what will be a 52-week problem; and look at who that money was allowed to pay: businesses were only allowed to pay for payroll (which is good), landlords, insurance companies and utility companies.
Think about that for a second.
Real estate owners, insurance conglomerates and large utility providers. Not one cent could go to the hundreds of small businesses that had provided goods and services. Not one penny. It seems that during every crisis, big companies get bailed out and taken care of - banks, airlines, insurance companies, etc.
During the Great Recession, banks and insurance providers played fast and loose with their money and brought the world economy to the brink of failure. They got bailed out with public tax dollars. Where is the reciprocity? Why do small businesses always give and never get? It seems immeasurably unfair.
Restaurants were mandated by the government to close down on March 16. Some closed in advance of that date for fear that their employees and guests might get sick.
But here we are, five and half months later, still closed, with no clear indication of what the future holds. There is no clear communication from the City or State as to when this will end.
Where is justice? Where is freedom? What is to be done?