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New York’s latest phase of the COVID-19 pandemic has brought another casualty as longtime 8th Avenue watering hole Latitude Bar and Grill announced its closure this afternoon.
In a post on Latitude Bar’s Instagram page, owner Tom Murphy made the closure announcement, thanking customers for their 16 years of patronage.
“Unfortunately, due to the devastation COVID-19 has caused New York, Broadway and the restaurant industry we have been put in a situation where we would rather walk away when the timing is right versus waiting for the uncertain future and what might unfold.”
Latitude, between W47/48th Streets, was a 4-story venue that included a rooftop bar and large event space. It was well-known for its variety of celebratory rooms — ranging from stylized billiards tables, to a traditional sports bar, to a sleek, open-air club setting. Locals and tourists alike flocked to the space for the elevated New American pub food and frequent happy hour specials.
General Manager Alyssa Aiola wrote on Instagram, saying: “Spending the rest of the week packing up @latitudebarnyc for good — the end of a Hell’s Kitchen era. My heart hurts. I can’t believe this is where COVID took us and so many restaurants alike. The city has failed small businesses and in my opinion, failed restaurants big time.”
This evening, many regulars and staff from the bar mourned the loss on social media. “So sad. I worked here for almost 5 years. I’ve met some amazing people along the way and that I will cherish forever,” said Zuleika Santiago-Johnson.
Others talked about how Omicron had scuppered their plans. “I could literally cry! I was supposed to come for my birthday this year and couldn’t because of Omicron. Very upsetting,” said Nicollette Harsch.
Francis Carrero-Green said: “So sorry to hear this! You all will be missed! From Happy Hours to Birthday Parties, Halloween parties and Pool games the memories are endless! 🥂 Cheers to your 16 years!”
Latitude joins a slew of fellow Hell’s Kitchen stalwarts forced to close throughout the pandemic, citing a lack of rent relief, supply chain issues, staffing shortages, and rising food prices. Newer businesses like the Down The Road Pub — opened in July of 2019 — barely existed before COVID closures and struggled to regain footing during New York’s now wobbly reopening (DTR closed on December 26).
While New York remains one of the industry’s hardest-hit markets, restaurants nationwide are reaching a critical tipping point in the years-long battle to stay afloat. In a recent guest essay for the New York Times, Atlanta restaurateur Ron Hsu asserts the need for renewed government support in the age of omicron: “Without more help — both from the government and from guests — we won’t make it, nor will countless other independently owned restaurants around the country. Our industry needs more support from the government. That means supplemental health insurance for employees or rent abatement programs for landlords of restaurant properties. Easy access to free rapid testing would also help us catch infections early. President Biden has announced plans to expand free at-home testing. Restaurant employees and other essential workers who can do their work only in person should be prioritized.”
As locals mourn the loss of Latitude, and other neighborhood favorites white-knuckle their way through another pandemic winter — without additional citywide and federal support, it’s likely to be a long season of financial crises and closings for New York’s food scene.