We’ve been through storms before in New York, but nothing like Sandy (at least not in my lifetime). As soon as the windows started rattling, I knew this one was different. I started thinking that NYC may have a hard time recovering. Sandy hit New York on Monday and there are still businesses without electricity. ConEd says it will be another three days until the whole city has power, and the subway system is only half functional. Spence wrote yesterday about the ways Sandy will affect the restaurant industry. I decided to reach out to a few NY chefs to see exactly how Sandy had affected their business. Here’s what they had to say:
Jason Avery Chef/partner at The Quarter (522 Hudson Street, NYC): When starting a new business, you try to plan for every contingency, but, until now, in NYC a hurricane wasn’t one of them! Fortunately, even without any initial opening fanfare we were quickly discovered and embraced by the neighborhood and have been doing business far in excess of our projections. If that hadn’t been the case, The Quarter would likely have been a permanent victim of Sandy. Like most new restaurants, after all the opening expenses our capital reserves were pretty much depleted. Being unexpectedly closed for days could have been a killer. Our biggest concern is keeping our terrific staff of 13 intact – because we were doing such good business the wait staff was doing well with tips and hopefully have a bit of a cushion, but the back-of-house crew can’t afford to be out of work. If we can’t re-open soon, they will be forced to look for other jobs, which means we’ll have to start from scratch hiring and training. And that’s daunting. There is a silver lining for me though. I have a baby daughter who I’ve been able to spend a lot of time with since Sunday!
Chef Patrick Allouache of Piquant (259 Flatbush Avenue, Brooklyn, NY, 718-484-4114): We were closed for two days, Monday and Tuesday., and we were blessed not to have any damage. We opened yesterday and already had our clientele back. We even had more business than expected! Thank god our staff is all ok except for the lack transportation and/or electricity. But other than that they are all well.
Amnon Kehati Owner SideWalk Restaurant & Bar (94 Avenue A, NYC 212-473-7373): Where are they [his staff]going to go? Nothing is open downtown and none of them would want to work uptown. It’s such a different experience and vibe. Plus a lot of my people have been with me for years. They know I’ll reopen as soon as I can. What I’m worried about is when we can be fully operational again. They’re talking about the power possibly being on this weekend. But we won’t have any food, so it would be a silly situation. I don’t want to order anything because there is no guaranty when we will have the power. And of course when it does come on there will be so many places ordering so much, all the vendors are going to be backed up. It won’t be so easy as saying ‘We’re open’… for anybody down here.
Chef Marc Taxiera of The Russian Tea Room (150 West 57th Street, NY, 212- 581-7100): We’ll likely be open this weekend, which is when we heard they can stabilize the crane. I was there when the police came in and said we had to close down the restaurant. It was weird but we got through it. The staff is fine though – they’ll still be compensated for the days we missed – and I’ve been in touch with them every day. We’re all looking forward to be up and running again and expect business to bounce back, full steam ahead!
Chef Joel Reiss of S Prime in Long Island City (35-16 36th Street, NY, 718-707-0660): We did not close at all except for Monday and Tuesday which are the days we are closed for private events. We had no damage thank god and we are open right now. The staff had a hard time getting to work with limited subway service but everybody made it in thankfully.
Vita Chase Manager at Hospoda (321 East 73rd Street, NYC, 212-861-1038): We’ve had a full, packed restaurant since we reopened on Wednesday after being closed for two days. We’re even more crowded than usual because Upper East Siders want to get out and go to an open place in their neighborhood. But the issue was we were without a lot of staff members. But issue because we were without a lot of staff members. Though our Executive Chef Katie Busch was able to make it in from Queens. A lot of staff carpooled. The other issue is that the restaurant is cash only for the time being because we lost Internet access and the ability to swipe credit cards.
Don McKnight, partner Corner Bistro LIC (331 West 4th Street, NY 212-242-9502 & 47-18 Vernon Blvd 718-606-6500): While our West Village location is still without power, our new Long Island City location was fortunate with power and flooding, and we were able to stay open. We have been personally picking up our employees and driving them to and from work while transportation is down, and as one of the only venues in the area that was able to stay open throughout the ordeal, our costumers have been very grateful to have a place to come to. We were even able to get delivery up and running today, and we’re open for normal business hours.
Chef Julio Genao Casa Nonna (310 West 38th Street, NY, 212-736-3000) – We were closed during the storm on Monday, and also all day Tuesday while we contacted staff, checking on everyone and assessing our ability to open for lunch on Wednesday. We prepared to lose power, stocking our refrigerators with dry ice and shutting down all non-essential power. Luckily we had no wind or water damage, and only lost power for a very short time, which caused the gas feed to the restaurant to automatically shut off. After we were able to reset the gas feed on Wednesday morning, we were up and running. We still have some team members who are unable to make it in to Manhattan, but others have been working extra so we are now 100% operational. We’ve had all fresh deliveries of meat, fish, cheese and produce so our menu is as perfect as ever. There has been a great sense of teamwork and concern with our whole staff. Many people found themselves working in positions they haven’t worked before. I am really proud of my team and the way everyone came together during the crisis.