Our mission to help you navigate the new normal is driven by subscribers. Subscribe today for full access to our journalism.
As even a cursory glance at unemployment rates and business closures across the country will show, 2020 must be the worst year in the history of modern restaurants.
Imagine you're still trying to open a restaurant this year.
Given the time it takes to open a restaurant in the first place – let alone reopen one during a pandemic after having closed for several months – some owners may have no choice but to keep going. Investments have been made, contracts and leases signed, and opening and reopening (even if only for takeout, delivery and perhaps al fresco dining) are the only ways to make up for losses incurred during the shutdown.
"The restaurant and bar industry has become the villain of the COVID spread, and I think that's unfair," said Linden Pride, co-owner of two restaurants in New York City, along with his wife, Nathalie Hudson. “Just as precautionary measures can be taken with any social interaction, our industry goes way beyond how we enforce safety practices to ensure the health of our guests and employees. We're one of the largest sectors of employment in New York City, and our industry needs support if we are to make it through this time. "
For those restaurant owners looking to reopen indoor dining, it could be an uphill battle. Not only with reduced capacity, but also with reduced checks per table per night, but also to get guests to dine indoors at all. A CDC study in September found that people infected with COVID were twice as likely to say they had eaten at a restaurant in the past two weeks. And a poll by YouGov and reservation service SevenRooms at the end of August found that more than one in four Americans say they won't feel comfortable eating until after a vaccine.
The ambience of the Dante West Village is inspired by the great cafes and restaurants of Northern Italy, especially in Turin and Milan. Giada Paoloni
Dante West Village was planned to be the second iteration of the popular Caffe Dante in Greenwich Village near New York University and was originally scheduled to open in March as a more traditional restaurant with the same European vibe as its sister eatery. However, the spring opening was delayed due to the COVID-19 outbreak and economic shutdown. Therefore, the managers have postponed the soft opening to July for al fresco dining only.
“When we finally opened for outdoor dining, we made adjustments daily and then weekly as the city was sporadic information. We tried to figure out exactly what the guidelines were and then went out of our way to make sure our guests and staff felt extremely safe eating, ”explains Pride. This included creating table dividers, enforcing temperature tests, placing hand sanitizer on each table, and more.
Ornate glass partitions separate the guests in the New York restaurant. Giada Paoloni
But the opening or reopening in July also meant dealing with increasingly chaotic weather on the east coast, from extreme heat to sudden thunderstorms. Proudly says he's never had so many weather apps on his phone before. "I was crazy about checking it out several times a day and praying it wouldn't rain," he recalls. "Fortunately, we are surrounded by an incredible community that has continued to support us, whether rain or shine."
With the reopening of the indoor restaurant in New York City on September 30th with 25% capacity for the foreseeable future, the restaurant recognizes that it is facing a whole new, additional battle as the restaurant serves its guests in its dining room for the restaurant welcomes first time.
The menu items include grilled aubergine salad, roasted branzino and fresh oysters in season. Giada Paoloni
Dante West Village is a seafood restaurant that focuses on a wood grill and charcoal oven. The Mediterranean-inspired menu is based on the coastal cuisine of northern Spain and southern Italy. The drinks menu focuses on two internationally popular drinks: the spritz and the martini.
The mint green house is on the corner of Hudson and Perry Streets in the West Village neighborhood of Manhattan and has outdoor seating on either side of the facade. Curated glass partitions are adorned with witty phrases inspired by the cocktail hour. Inside, plush green velvet banquets complement the hand-carved marble bar, vintage lighting, and bespoke wallpaper.
Dante West Village's decor is inspired by its original Greenwich Village location with its pressed tin ceiling and vintage photographs on the walls. Giada Paoloni
In accordance with current New York state and city guidelines at the time of publication, the restaurant has implemented a 25% capacity for indoor dining, which is only 18 people. The team also installed an HVAC filtration system and created custom frames to create barriers between tables and encourage social distancing. In addition, all guests undergo a temperature review indoors before they eat (staff undergo daily temperature reviews at the start of each shift). According to Pride, the host keeps a log of all guests who dine indoors for contact purposes.
"In our experience with New York guests, we've found that there is a consensus that we want to do it 'right' and that's what we're trying to do," says Pride. “We are very happy to welcome guests to eat indoors, and I feel very good about it. We'd love to see it rise to 50% or more as long as we're able to maintain social distancing. I believe that increasing the indoor dining capacity to 50% and making outdoor dining available all the time is the only way the restaurant and bar industry will manage during this time. "
The new location in West Village was launched by the owners of the current defending champion of the world's best bar, Caffe Dante, and offers a Mediterranean-inspired menu with dishes cooked in a wood grill and charcoal oven. Giada Paoloni
Already a neighborhood hotspot, Dante West Village is popular with locals and celebrities alike and usually generates a waiting list and constant (but detached) crowd on Friday and Saturday nights. It will dine al fresco, use heaters and lay blankets for guests even in winter. The bar program has also just launched its autumn drink menu “Fall Into Dante” with hot cocktails for the colder weather.
"We will do all we can to survive so that we can keep our guests comfortable, keep our employees busy, provide health insurance to our employees, and serve our local community while following the guidelines set out in local and state regulations. " Pride says.
More needs to be read Lifestyle reporting from capital::
- In a secret running program at Nike and a corporate culture that wins at all costs
- Why is now the time to age your wine collection?
- When is the best time to book vacation trips this year – if at all?
- A reading list for the New York Public Library's 2020 presidential election
- The app that wants to be the real estate bumblebee