NYC restaurants are forecasting a difficult winter.

For some, New York City represents the pinnacle of American dining. From hot dog carts and diverse street foods to 3-star Michelin restaurants, this city truly has among the best of the best.

But, like most of the global dining scene, times have been challenging since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and New York restauranteurs don’t anticipate things will get easier any time soon.

According to a recent survey from New York State Restaurant Association, 67% percent of restaurant owners expect that business conditions will not “return to normal” for at least another year. What’s more, 18% responded that business will never return to pre-pandemic levels at their restaurants

In recent months, the NYC restaurant industry faced a number of setbacks, which may (understandably) be contributing to its darkened outlook.

For example, this summer, Governor Cuomo ended the state’s take out and delivery liquor program. Throughout the pandemic, these sales have been a lifeline to some establishments, and accounted for as much as 50% of some restaurants’ sales.

However, for many, the future of New York City dining hinges on the fate of permanent outdoor dining. Dozens of residents have filed a lawsuit to stop the Open Restaurant program, which allows restaurants and bars to use sidewalks and curb space to expand their capacity. The lawsuit claims the restaurants’ structures are destructive to neighborhoods, increasing noise and garbage, and attracting vermin.

Restaurants, on the other hand, argue that this setup is critical to helping them stay afloat and recoup losses they have experienced over the last year and a half. It would also help them mitigate rising costs brought on by supply chain and labor issues.

But, even if outdoor dining is allowed to stay, restaurants will no longer be allowed to use propane heaters — despite some eateries investing thousands of dollars in them last year. While the city is offering a grant to help cover the cost of new natural gas and electric heaters, it may not cover what was already spent. I also imagine that permissible heaters will be in short supply.

To say things are challenging for restaurant and bar owners and operators in NYC would be an understatement. But, in my experience, there are few things tougher than a New Yorker.

It may take time, and creativity, but I believe that the Big Apple will thrive again. Until then, we should all do what we can to support our favorite establishments.

Danilo Diazgranados is an independent investor in the global food and wine, financial services, real estate, and the hospitality sectors.

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