New York’s most iconic restaurants have gone through bad times over the years – wars, financial crises, blackouts, a terrorist attack – but this pandemic and the measures taken to combat it, with mandatory quarantines and social distancing, are something absolutely unpublished.
These restaurants are eaten by locals and tourists include them on their must-see lists. Some have existed for more than a century.
The coronavirus came “like an avalanche, because of the speed with which things changed,” said David Berson, general manager of Peter Luger, the Brooklyn steakhouse opened in 1887 and run by his family since 1950.
The state order to restaurants to stop receiving diners and reduce their home delivery services or takeaways has been a special challenge for Luger, a high-priced restaurant where people go on special occasions and place orders for their customers. providers well in advance.
That means that right now “we have a lot of ripe meat” to decide what to do with it, Berson said. “Tons, really.”
In addition, it has reduced its staff, usually from about 40 employees, to half a dozen. For now they are all paid, he said.
The contrast is brutal with the prevailing climate after the attacks of September 11, when the slogan was to get out and consume for the good of the economy.
Now “what you have to do is the opposite: stay home,” he said.
At Junior’s, another Brooklyn venue famous for its cheesecake, the doors are closed.
The owner, Alan Rosen, the current generation of a family that owns the 70-year-old institution, decided that the best way to survive the closure was to focus on his commercial pastry shop in New Jersey, which supplies still-open grocery stores, and to close both the Brooklyn locals like Manhattan and Connecticut.
Staying open for home delivery would not have been sustainable, he added.
That meant laying off 650 of its 850 employees, some of whom went to the Brooklyn location on Thursday to collect their latest wages.
Mike Zoulis is the owner of Tom’s Restaurant in North Manhattan, the exterior of which many viewers know as the “Seinfeld” series restaurant. His family launched it in the 1940s.
It is open for home delivery and takeaways, “but if it continues like this, what can I do?” He asked.
For now only he and his two partners are in the restaurant, which has laid off most of the staff.