Big Apple restaurants are cutting back their hours as they grapple with rampant crime and a chronic shortage of workers, industry insiders tell Side Dish.
Last month, top chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten made a splash opening six restaurants and six fast-casual spots inside the landmarked Tin Building at the South Street Seaport. But the building and its restaurants are only open four days a week, from noon until 9 pm.
Even with slashed hours and days, the Tin Building is still without the employees it needs. Recent ads on social media show openings for “cooks, prep cooks, chef de partie, garde manger, butchers, bakers, pastry cooks, cake decorators and sous chefs.”
The Tin Building isn’t unusual. 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 at 2 am on Sunday nights. Do you? It’s like a ‘Matrix’ experience,” says nightlife baron king Richie Romero.
His 11,000 square-foot club Nebula, the largest new nightclub to open last year, is now open three nights a week – Tuesday, Friday and Saturday – with “one-offs” 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’s Zazzy’s Pizza, which has three locations. It’s still open seven days a week — until 4 am Thursday to Saturday at the Lower East Side outpost, but shuts off its ovens at 10:30 pm 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’s hard to staff places. There is less demand. People aren’t commuting as much. They’re staying home,” Romero said.
Some new restaurants that attempted 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 during the summer, the high-end sports bar near Austin Street cut back 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 pin-drop quiet,” he said.
By mid-September, the restaurant was down to five nights a week after dropping its weekend lunch service. Chadha said he didn’t want to “fight the trend of beyond quiet nights” at the top of the week. He’s also tried to lure customers with discounted bar tabs during non-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 it’s open four days a week, Thursday through Sunday, “to tighten the ship and brave the winter ahead,” said owner Bill Zafiros. He also will launch a price incentive — $10 menus during dinner hours — to bring in people.
“We’ve always been packed on the weekends. It’s just a lot more efficient to simplify things and go where the demand is rather than continue to bang my head against the wall to try and convince customers to come out earlier in the week, especially during 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 below Hawksmoor, a British steakhouse, at 287 Park Avenue South.
It is open only three days a week, Thursday through Saturday, because of staffing issues, and is also available for private events, said Trummer, who gained fame founding celeb hot spot Apotheke in Chinatown
“I lost many of my staff during the pandemic, and it’s hard to find people who are highly skilled and sophisticated, and also willing to work hospitality’s long hours,” Trummer said.
The Austrian-born mixologist brings his special elixirs to DOM after selling Apotheke, where he served up medicinal-style cocktails and pyrotechnic antics in the former opium den.
Many of the liqueurs are from his own eponymous line that use herbs from the Austrian Alps to cure everything from common colds to lackluster libidos.
As New York City moves into the holiday season, he hopes to expand DOM’s hours and days, offering cocktails divided into the categories Health and Beauty, Pain Killers, Stress Relievers, Aphrodisiacs, Pharmaceuticals, Stimulants and Euphoric Enhancers.