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The story of the reopening and closing of the iconic Oyster Bar at Grand Central Terminal shines a light on the struggles of food businesses throughout the city and in what’s usually one of the busiest transit hubs in the world.
We visited the Dining Concourse this afternoon and found only three of the normal 20 plus vendors serving the commuters and tourists. The only open businesses were Magnolia Bakery, Frankies Dogs, and Central Market New York.
The Oyster Bar was closed up. It reopened for business on September 30, as New York again allowed indoor dining. However, despite lines on their opening day, the restaurant has closed once more after just 12 days.
The notice pinned in their window today said: “Dear friends, it has been seven challenging months since we last saw many of you at the Grand Central Oyster Bar. As we re-opened on September 30th, we relished the opportunity to be of service again, and fill your hearts, and ours, with joy and do what we do best; offer an amazing experience to our beloved New Yorkers and to our friends from all over the world.
“Today, however, we must, temporarily, close again due to the lack of traffic and business implicitly, caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. We do have a promise for all of you! We will come back stronger and with an even bigger desire to serve you. Stay safe, be well, and thank you for your continuous support!”
The Oyster Bar closed in March, but after reopening the 107-year old restaurant could not find enough business at 25 percent capacity. The seating was reduced to 81 diners from the usual capacity of 440 people.
“September 30 was our best day and after that it dwindled,” Sandy Ingber, the executive chef, told the New York Post. “We were only doing 3 percent of the revenues we ordinarily do at this time.”
The restaurant and other Dining Concourse vendors hope that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (their landlord) will give a rent break. The MTA’s next board meeting is on October 21.
Earlier in the pandemic, 20 vendors went on a rent strike by refusing to pay their April dues. The MTA deferred April rent after that action, but tenants are back on the hook to pay the rent from now on, along with interest and penalties for missed payments.
As well as the Oyster Bar, the list of vendors not operating this afternoon at Grand Central Dining Concourse include Art Bird and Whiskey Bar, Chirping Chicken, Doughnut Plant, Eata Pita, Hale and Hearty Soups, Jacques Torres Ice Cream, Mendy’s Kosher Dairy/Delicatessen, Shiro of Japan, Wok Chi Chinese Kitchen, Café Spice, Golden Krust Patties, Joe Coffee Company, La Chula, Latineria, Prova Pizzabar, Shake Shack, Tartinery, Tri Tip Grill and Zaro’s Family Bakery.
UPDATES: We have asked for comments from the vendors and MTA. We will update the story with their responses.