Big Apple restaurants are cutting their hours as they contend with rampant crime and a chronic labor shortage, industry insiders tell Side Dish.
Last month, top chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten made a splash by opening six restaurants and six fast-casual spots inside the landmark Tin Building at South Street Seaport. But the building and restaurants are only open four days a week, from 12.00 to 21.00.
Even with cut hours and days, the Tin building is still without the employees it needs. Recent ads on social media list openings for “chefs, cooks, cooks, garde manger, butchers, bakers, pastry chefs, cake decorators and sous chefs.”
Tin Building is not uncommon. Restaurateurs interviewed by Side Dish say shorter weeks are a response to crime and inflation to labor shortages. And New Yorkers who are back at work are often only in their offices two or three days a week.
“People just aren’t out as much and the late-night demand isn’t always there because of the crime factor. I don’t even feel safe walking around 2am on Sunday nights. Do you? It’s like a “Matrix” experience, says nightlife baron Richie Romero.
His 11,000 square meter club Nebula, the biggest new nightclub to open last year, is now open three nights a week – Tuesday, Friday and Saturday – with “one off specials” on some Thursdays. The rest of the time, the club only opens its doors for private events.
Romero’s new kosher sushi omakase spot Fin and Scales, at 10 E. 8th St., is open one night a week, while his other recently opened Sushi by Bou, in Chelsea, is open five nights a week. Then there is Zazzy’s Pizza, which has three locations. It’s still open seven days a week – until 4 a.m. Thursday through Saturday at its Lower East Side outpost, but closes the ovens at 10:30 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday.
“People have adapted to being at home more after COVID. They are in their offices two to three days a week instead of five, and it is difficult to staff places. There is less demand. People don’t commute as much. They stay home,” Romero said.
Some new restaurants that tried to stay open seven days a week had to quickly scale back.
When Roam Sporting Club launched in Queens in February, it was open seven days a week. But over the summer, the upscale sports bar near Austin Street cut back to five days. Owner Manish Chadha tried to reopen for “Monday Night Football” this fall, but the costs were too high and “the streets of Forest Hills were completely silent,” he said.
In mid-September, the restaurant was down for five nights a week after dropping its weekday lunch service. Chadha said he did not want to “buck the trend of beyond quiet nights” at the top of the week. He has also tried to entice customers with discounted bar tabs during off-peak hours.
Ten Hope in Williamsburg also feels the pressure. When it launched in 2019, Ten Hope was open six days a week. Now it’s open four days a week, Thursday through Sunday, “to tighten the ship and brave the winter ahead,” owner Bill Zafiros said. He will also launch a price incentive – $10 dinner menus – to bring in people.
“We have always been packed at weekends. It’s just much more efficient to simplify things and go where the demand is rather than keep banging your head against the wall trying to convince customers to come out earlier in the week, especially in the winter months ahead, Zafiros said.
Legendary cocktail artist Albert Trummer recently opened a highly stylized bar and lounge called DOM, for Domicile, in the landmark United Charities Building beneath Hawksmoor, a British steakhouse, at 287 Park Avenue South.
It’s open only three days a week, Thursday through Saturday, because of staffing issues, and is also available for private events, said Trummer, who rose to fame founding celebrity hot spot Apotheke in Chinatown
“I lost a lot of my staff during the pandemic, and it’s hard to find people who are highly skilled and sophisticated, and also willing to work the long hours of hospitality,” Trummer said.
The Austrian-born mixologist brings his special elixirs to DOM after selling Apotheke, where he served medicinal cocktails and pyrotechnic antics in the former opium den.
Many of the liqueurs are from his own eponymous line that uses herbs from the Austrian Alps to cure everything from colds to gluttonous libidos.
As New York City heads into the holiday season, he hopes to expand DOM’s hours and days, offering cocktails divided into the categories of Health and Beauty, Pain Relievers, Stress Relievers, Aphrodisiacs, Pharmaceuticals, Stimulants and Euphoric Enhancers.