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  • Writer's pictureAndrea Strong

How Hard Have NYC's Restaurants Been Hit? A New Report from Comptroller DiNapoli Has Answers

Today, a new study was released by New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli revealing significant data about the NYC restaurant industry during the COVID-19 crisis. As a result of the report findings, Comptroller DiNapoli  recommends that all levels of government provide support in outdoor dining, commercial lease assistance, the availability of loan and grant funds, and more.

“New York City’s bars and restaurants are the lifeblood of our neighborhoods. The industry is challenging under the best of circumstances and many eateries operate on tight margins. Now they face an unprecedented upheaval that may cause many establishments to close forever,” DiNapoli said in the report. “Restaurants reflect our diversity, employing tens of thousands of immigrants and providing a range of options fitting for a world-class metropolis. It’s important that the state and city continue to be creative and bolster the industry. The city’s decision to extend outdoor dining year-round to help keep restaurants afloat is a step in the right direction along with opening for indoor dining.”

But the report calls for more direct aid to the industry from the federal government. "The federal government should provide new stimulus targeting the sector to sustain operations and help local economies mitigate transmission risk," write DiNapoli in the report. "New York City should also continue to leverage innovative programs to support new or developing operating models where possible, including outdoor dining, commercial lease assistance, and support for takeout and delivery operations. In addition, the availability of loan and grant funds, both directly from the City and through the facilitation of State and federal grants, should support bridging the economic-activity gap faced by establishments, particularly in the City’s hardest hit areas."

Highlights from the study include:

  • New York City's restaurant industry had 23,650 establishments in 2019, provided 317,800 jobs, paid $10.7 billion in total wages citywide, and made nearly $27 billion in taxable sales. 

  • Prior to the pandemic, from 2009 to 2019, jobs in the restaurant industry grew by 61 percent and establishments grew by 44 percent, double the overall rate of growth.

  • More than 60 percent of NYC resident restaurant workers were immigrants in 2018, compared to 45 percent across all occupations; in 16 neighborhoods the share was between 70 percent and 90 percent.

  • As of 2018, 44 percent of the City's residents working in the restaurant industry were Hispanic and 20 percent were Asian, higher than overall employment shares.

  • By August 2020, employment in the restaurant industry was still only 55 percent of its level in February 2020, before the pandemic hit.

  • While there are indications that revenues for open restaurants improved since their low point in March 2020, many establishments are still struggling and others remain closed.

  • On average, 44 percent of restaurants have used outdoor seating, suggesting reduced operations and closures are significant and may continue if further operational or financial support is not forthcoming.

The NYC Hospitality Alliance will continue to advocate for the industry in all levels of government.

"New York City's restaurant industry is vital to our economy and Comptroller DiNapoli's shocking new report confirms with data the economic devastation that COVID-19 has inflicted on these vital small businesses," said Andrew Rigie, Executive Director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance. "The Comptroller's report sends a critical message that must be heard by policy makers and New Yorkers at large, which is, that in order to save our city's greater economy, our restaurant industry must be at the core of its recovery. While we are appreciative of the government actions taken so far to support our restaurant community and the hundreds of thousands of people it employs, many more polices must be enacted by all levels of government to help save these small businesses and our economy." 

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