The Unprecedented Challenges Faced by Restaurant Owners in Brooklyn, New York

The restaurant industry has been severely affected by the pandemic, with customer demand and sales plummeting while costs have skyrocketed. Ali Sahim, owner of Café C and B, is one of many restaurant owners in Brooklyn, New York who have had to make drastic changes to keep their doors open. Two restaurants in particular are making massive changes to stay afloat, but it is impossible to accurately measure the exact impact of the pandemic on restaurants in NYC for any group. According to a survey conducted by the New York State Restaurant Association, 67% of restaurants do not anticipate business conditions to return to normal for at least another year.

85% of restaurants experienced a decrease in indoor dining due to the delta variant of the coronavirus. Amarachi, a beloved pan-African restaurant in Brooklyn that has been visited by Nigerian kings and at least one future mayor of New York City, is one of many black-owned restaurants facing unsustainable debt levels or potential closure. The Tamale Outpost closed its doors at the end of February but expects to reopen in mid-March and offer food delivery and takeout. Greg Baxtrom, owner of Olmsted, had to transition from a standard restaurant to an establishment that he describes as part grocery store and part food bank, and partly still a restaurant. Melissa Fleischut, president and CEO of the New York State Restaurant Association, said that the results of the survey are nothing more than a reflection of restaurants that are suffering and don't promise better days. With most health experts still recommending not eating indoors and restrictions still in place in many areas, one in five restaurants closed permanently last year.

The latest winter wave of the omicron variant of COVID-19 has made life even more complicated for restaurant owners. According to several Brooklyn business owners, many black restaurant owners are also sole owners and didn't have access to loans related to the pandemic due to not having an accountant or lawyer to make sure their taxes, payrolls and related documents were up to date. Fleischut said that New York restaurants are selling out and falling apart fast. Replenishing the Restaurant Relief Fund will keep restaurant operators and businesses afloat, and new sources of revenue from take-out alcohol will go a long way towards helping restaurants continue to serve.95% of surveyed restaurant owners said they had applied for grants from the Restaurant Revitalization Fund but did not receive the money. It is difficult to precisely quantify the impact of the pandemic on black-owned restaurants in Brooklyn compared to other restaurants due to lack of data collection.

Geneva Bainer
Geneva Bainer

Unapologetic tv guru. Wannabe web buff. Typical beer guru. General pop culture geek. Proud food lover.

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