Organizers have canceled the 2021 New York International Auto Show at the Javits Center due to the growing concern about the COVID Delta variant and increased measures put in place by state and local officials this week to stop the spread. One bar owner described the decision as “heartbreaking” as the huge event was “the bright light at the end of this tunnel of hell.”

Promotion for the Auto Show on 11th Avenue. Photo: Javits Center.

Auto Show President Mark Schienberg said in a statement this afternoon: “As custodians of the 121-year-old New York Auto Show, we are committed to providing a safe environment for everyone — including attendees, exhibitors, and the thousands of men and women who put the Show together. Over the past few weeks, and especially within the last few days, circumstances have changed, making it more difficult to create an event at the high standard that we and our clients expect.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced yesterday (Tuesday) that New York City will require people to show proof of vaccination for indoor activities, such as dining, gyms and events. The new policy will be implemented from August 16 — the Auto Show was scheduled to run for 10 days from August 20-29.

The New York International Auto Show. Photo: NYIAS.

The city is reporting that the seven-day average of coronavirus cases now exceeds 1,400 — this compares with less than 250 just a month ago and a peak of over 6,400 at the start of this year. The Auto Show said in their statement that historically attendees spend on average almost five hours at the exhibition.

Local businesses shared the “great disappointment” of Schienberg in the cancellation of the show. Many hotels in the area had been reporting group bookings for the events and restaurants were looking forward to welcoming back conference attendees for the first time in nearly 18 months.

Antonio from Il Punto on the corner of 9th Avenue and W38th Street told us that he was “speechless”. He explained that five groups had just canceled their reservations: “One 20 people, one 16 people, one 14 people and two with 18 people each. I don’t even know what to say!”

James Gwynne from Hudson Station Bar & Grill on 9th Avenue and W34th Street said: “This is literally heartbreaking for us. This was the bright light at the end of this tunnel of hell. We still need the Restaurant Revitalization Fund replenished, or the bar and myself are bankrupt and over.”

“The NY Auto Show has always been good for our business, because it draws families and couples who park in the garage next door and make it a social event by attending the show and dining out before or afterwards. It’s yet another crushing blow for local restaurants in our community,” said Steve Olsen, the owner of the West Bank Cafe on W42nd Street.

Robert Benfatto, President of Hudson Yards Hell’s Kitchen Alliance, told us: “HYHK Alliance is disappointed to learn of the second cancellation of the Auto Show in two years, but is not surprised given the new COVID variant. We are hopeful though that immunization will work its way up and the show can proceed in the spring of 2022.”

Chef Charlie Marshall masked up in October 2020. Photo: Phil O’Brien.

“We were looking forward to seeing the return of Javits events and we usually see a fair number of customers from those, but nothing is predictable nowadays. But now people can’t blame politicians and corporations for lockdowns and cancellations — that blame lies squarely with the unvaccinated. I believe this would be largely over already if everyone had gotten their shot. We’re going to continue to see these types of disappointments until more people wake up,” said Chef Charlie Marshall at The Marshal on 10th Avenue.

It was a cruel blow for the Javits Center which had heralded the Auto Show’s return — after serving New Yorkers as a field hospital, COVID testing site and vaccination center during the pandemic.

Sheinberg hoped that the show would “rebound and be bigger and better than before” in its regular springtime slot at Javits in April 2022.

We will update this story with more comments from local businesses — or please comment below if your business has been hit by this news.

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