Big Apple restaurants are reducing hours as they grapple with rampant crime and chronic worker shortages, according to industry experts Side Dish.
Last month, top chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten made a splash by opening six restaurants and six fast-casual venues inside the famous Tin Building at South Street Seaport. However, the building and its restaurants are open only four days a week, from noon to 9 pm.
The Tin Building still doesn’t have the employees it needs, even as hours and days are reduced. Recent ads on social media show openings for “cooks, prep cooks, party chef, garde manger, butchers, bakers, pastry chefs, cake decorators, and gravy chefs.”
The Tin Building is not unusual. Restaurateurs interviewed by Side Dish say the shorter weeks are a response to crime and inflation to labor shortages. And New Yorkers returning to work are usually in their office two or three days a week.
“People aren’t that far out, and late night demand isn’t always there because of the crime factor. I don’t even feel safe walking around at 2am on Sunday nights. Do you? It’s like a ‘Matrix’ experience,” says nightlife baron tycoon Richie Romero.
Nebula, the largest new nightclub to open last year, is now open three nights a week – Tuesday, Friday and Saturday – with “one-offs” some Thursdays. The rest of the time the club only opens its doors for private events.
Romero’s 10 E. 8th St. Fin and Scales, the new kosher sushi omakase spot at , is open one night a week, while the other recently opened Sushi by Bou in Chelsea is open five nights a week. Then there’s Zazzy’s Pizza, which has three locations. It’s still open seven days a week – at the Lower East Side outpost until 4am Thursday-Saturday, but it closes its bakeries at 10:30pm Sunday through Wednesday.
“People are more adapted to being at home after COVID. They’re in their office two or three days a week instead of five, and it’s hard to find staff. There’s less demand. People don’t travel a lot. They stay at home,” Romero said.
Some new restaurants trying to stay open seven days a week have had to downsize quickly.
When Roam Sporting Club launched in Queens in February, it was open seven days a week. But in the summer, the high-end sports bar near Austin Street was reduced to five days. Owner Manish Chadha tried to reopen for “Monday Night Football” this fall, but the cost was too high and “the streets in Forest Hills were extremely quiet,” he said.
By mid-September, the restaurant had dropped to five nights a week, after discontinuing weekday lunch service. Chadha said earlier in the week that she didn’t want to “fight the trend beyond quiet nights”. She also tried to lure customers with discount bar tabs during off-peak hours.
Ten Hope in Williamsburg is also feeling the squeeze. When it launched in 2019, Ten Hope was open six days a week. Now the ship’s owner, Bill Zafiros, is open four days a week, Thursday through Sunday, “to tame the ship and brave the winter.” It will also launch a price incentive—$10 menus during dinner hours—to bring people in.
“We’re always full on the weekends. It’s much more efficient to simplify things and go where the demand is, rather than keep banging my head on the wall to persuade customers to go out earlier in the week, especially in the coming winter months,” said Zafiros.
Legendary cocktail artist Albert Trummer recently opened a highly stylized bar and lounge, DOM, for Domicile, in the iconic United Charities Building below Hawksmoor, a British steakhouse at 287 Park Avenue South.
Trummer, who gained fame by building the famously popular Apotheke in Chinatown, said it’s open only three days a week, Thursday through Saturday, due to staffing issues, and is also available for private events.
“I lost most of my staff during the pandemic, and it’s hard to find people who are extremely talented and sophisticated, but also willing to work long hours in hospitality,” Trummer said. Said.
The Austrian-born mixologist brings his specialty potions to DOM after selling Apotheke, where he serves medicinal-style cocktails and pyrotechnic antiques in his former opium room.
Most of the liqueurs come from their eponymous line, which uses herbs from the Austrian Alps to treat everything from colds to a lackluster libido.
As New York City enters the holiday season, it hopes to expand the DOM’s hours and days by offering cocktails broken down into the Health and Beauty, Painkillers, Stress Relievers, Aphrodisiacs, Medications, Stimulants, and Euphoric Enhancers categories.