Pamela Silvestri Staten Island Advance, N.Y.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) From virtual wine tastings to shutting down kitchens entirely, 8 restaurants share what they plan to do if indoor dining is shutdown again in New York.
Muddling through the pandemic as a small business, entrepreneurs are familiar with survival mode in shutdowns. How will restaurants handle a potential closure this time around?
That question comes from the looming threat by Governor Andrew Cuomo as COVID-19 hospitalizations spike to cease indoor dining as soon as Monday.
On March 15, the unthinkable happened when New York City restaurants were forced to close dining rooms in the interest of public health. What was thought to be a brief pause turned out to be quite a long time for proprietors to hold their breath — in some instances, too long.
Indoor dining was allowed to resume Sept. 22 at 25% capacity, a number that has not changed since as positivity rates have risen since.
In light of that history, see how owners will go forward.
1. HIBERNATE FOR WINTER Killmeyer's Old Bavaria Inn in Charleston (Killmeyers.com) will close temporarily. Saloonkeeper Ken Tirado said he's at an advantage as a building owner. He plans to ride things out for a couple of months. Tirado said, "I learned back in April and May when the quarantine first began that because Killmeyer's is in a rather remote industrial area, and has no real previous history of home delivery, we're going to just sit around and wait for a phone ring. It is really not worth it for me to open my kitchen and bring in staff to sell a few trays of potato pancakes and pierogies and bratwurst." Killmeyers started up with home catering this year, as necessity is the mother of invention, but it hasn't really taken off to be sustainable with a dedicated staff and inventory. "I guess, if I have learned anything this past year, it's the importance of developing your off-premises catering business," said Tirado.
2. SKIP THE OUTDOOR DINING Helen Liu said things were finally getting back to normal at East Pacific in the Mall (EastPacificSI.com), Empire East and East Sushi (EastSushiAmboy.com), the latter two both in Eltingville. She said, "I hope there won't be a shut down on Monday because we are having our old customers back slowly. If the shut down occurs, it will affect all of us and the employees will lose their jobs again." Liu said as much as patrons love the food, the alfresco bit is not happening. "The outdoor dining is very hard for us to get to work. But in the worst situation if it needs to be shut down, we will still keep the restaurant open and work on the take-out and delivery orders," said Liu.
3. WHITTLE DOWN THE DAYS OF OPERATION Maurizio Asperti has been up in the air on what to do at Basilio Inn in South Beach (BasilioInn.com) during what is usually a peak time of year thanks to holiday parties. But he thinks Cuomo will close things up as of Monday. As a result, Asperti said, "I decided to close Monday through Thursday and only open Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Hence I will be closed tomorrow til Friday."
4. GO VIRTUAL "I'm planning to do the virtual wine tastings in small sets," said Robert Hernandez, the sommelier for VINUM wine bar and restaurant in Stapleton (VINUMnyc.com.) He and owner Massimo Felici put together successful programs over the spring and summer. New sessions will happen on Thursdays with kits ranging from $50 to $70. Virtual patrons will get two whites and two reds portioned into four-ounce, sealed glass bottles. Food is an optional choice — guests can order from the VINUM menu with dish pairing recommendations by Hernandez. Monday nights are "Industry Nights" with people from the restaurant realm joining in to sample unusual vintages and open palates to new vinos. Wines can be delivered or picked up curbside.
5. SELL BUNDLES AND HAVE FUN WITH DAILY SPECIALS Let's keep it on the positive, says Danny Mills of Ruddy and Dean (RuddyandDean.com) in St. George. His family-friendly steakhouse will continue the cow-centric theme yet with more offerings to eat at home: Danny's daily specials. These are fun riffs on his classic American menu with meal bundles and complete dinners. He'll keep his inventory tight. But it will be fresh and zipped up nicely for pickup and delivery. The proprietor hopes for a mild winter with no snow or, Mills maintains, "We will be crushed for days on end." And on that note, there is a rather nice Ruddy's wine list from which to select a vino to-go.
6. OPEN A TEMPORARY NEW CONCEPT Staten Island loves its new restaurants. Realizing this, Toasted S'Mores Co. (Instagram @ToastedSmoresCo) has been born. The popup restaurant in Charleston is the brainchild of Project Brunch's Jodi Guagliardo and her breakfast-lunch-tastic crew. The idea fuses house-made marshmallows with all the fixin's — chocolate, graham crackers, molten chocolate and more. There are Chocolate Bombs filled with a hot fudge core — and more decadent desserts. Orders can be placed for pickup at 718-605-9866.
7. STREAMLINE THE OPERATIONS Peter Botros has multiple operations and the likely option going forward is to keep losses at a minimum while keeping the staff employed. "If we get closed for dining, Violette's will be completely closed," said Botros of the Grant City spot (ViolettesCellar.com.) Stone House in Clove Lakes Park (TheStoneHouseSI.com) will also be shut. Sofia's in Rosebank (SofiasTaqueriaNYC.com) will be open for takeout and delivery. Rustic Pizza and Pasteria of Grant City (RusticPizza&Pasteria.com) will be open for take-out and delivery as will Sally's Southern in West Brighton (SallysSouthern.com.)
8.) START A 'GO FUND ME' It's a last-ditch effort but a restaurant's "gotta do what it's gotta do," said one East Shore owner considering the move. Some places that have the charity program in place are Bin 5 in Rosebank (Bin5NYC.com), Project Brunch (ProjectBrunch.com) in Charleston and Portobello Cafe in Great Kills (PortobelloCafe.com.)
___ (c)2020 Staten Island Advance, N.Y. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.