In August, we took a survey of W42ST readers and their dining habits, focusing on finding out their attitude to indoor dining. At that time, 25% capacity dining was over a month away (it started in New York City on September 30).
Last week, we asked the same questions, to see if there had been a significant change in attitudes and how many of you have dined indoors in the past month. The results are in!
Two months on, and those who say “Hell YEAH” remain pretty much the same – at 29.8% compared to 29.5% last time.
The most significant change in 60 days has been that 5% of our readers have moved from “Hell NO” to “Unsure.” As we head towards winter weather, this feedback reduces hope for restaurants and bars hoping to move clients indoors and maybe even get Governor Cuomo’s permission to allow 50% capacity indoor dining this month.
The survey did show that 47.1% of our readers had dined indoors since the initial indoor opening at the end of September. Those who had never dined out had reduced over the two months, from 18% of respondents to 12%.
As always, the data gives a picture, but it’s not the whole story. When we do these surveys, we create a “word cloud” (see the pretty Apple above). The word that springs out is “RISKY” and that reflects the thoughts of our readers.
“With the rate of infection so low in NY, I feel much better about spending time indoors. Also, I feel that outdoor dining has safety concerns as well. I’ve seen many close calls of cars almost colliding into outdoor diners,” one respondent’s view of balancing the risks in what many see as an impossible situation.
Jeff raised a key factor in the assessment of our decisions: “Indoor dining is critical to the economic survival of New York City.” This was echoed by Leane, who said: “It’s a step toward normalcy. Our restaurants aren’t going to be able to survive with the limits they currently have.”
“Something I long to do again,” said Emily. “But I’m not sure how it would feel to be in a confined space, maskless, with strangers.”
Paul pointed out the challenges faced by neighborhood favorites: “It is fine if there is abundant space between customers, but most restaurants in this neighborhood are too tight for appropriate physical distance…..think The Marshal or Briciola (two of my favorites). Spaces like Marseille, Nizza, and Five Napkins could probably pull it off to make me feel comfortable.”
“People in Hell’s Kitchen have been slacking lately,” said Uri, who sees the biggest threat from fellow diners, not the restaurant’s efforts. “Fewer masks or masks not over their nose. With all the COVIDiots around us, I do not feel comfortable about the success of indoor dining without additional spikes.”
The spectrum of respondents varied from Ian, who pronounced: “Irresponsible, reckless, premature, evidence of magical thinking,” to Tamora, who proclaimed: “About time, they’ve been doing it on Long Island for over a month.”
Overall, there is a feeling that we are all in this together. We spoke to twenty local business owners last week, and they reflected a similar caution and comprehension of the challenges for their customers and staff safety.
Corey Samuels, who is the co-owner of Kashkaval Garden, expressed the challenges for survival for Hell’s Kitchen eateries this winter: “The 25% helps if the weather is bad, otherwise if it is nice out, people understandably tend to want to sit outside. With COVID rates rising all around us, I don’t see the governor going to 50% soon – which might be the right call for public health concerns, but this will certainly make it hard for many restaurants to survive the winter, especially if the weather doesn’t cooperate.
“The elephant in the room is the exhaustion of PPP funds which folks have been using to keep operating – the funds help pay rent, payroll, and utilities. With no word from Congress on more funding and the forgiveness period expiring for many over the next few weeks, I suspect we’ll see a lot of places close permanently as their funds run dry. We’re already seeing it …”