New Yorkers are removing their masks to take a drink in the streets as lockdown in the city enters its tenth week and more bars reopen their doors for takeout cocktail service.
Residents in the Big Apple were seen gathering outside bars and restaurants Wednesday night, tempted by the rising temperatures and seeking a way to relax while they grow increasingly weary of isolating inside their homes.
Public drinking is strictly prohibited in the state and offenders can be slapped with fines, but the pandemic has sparked a defiance among many residents who – unable to sit inside bars or restaurants – are setting up shop outside them.
More restaurants and bars have started reopening and turning to takeout beers and cocktails in recent weeks as a way to keep the lights on as New York City has not yet reached all the requirements necessary for a safe reopening of non-essential businesses.
For some New Yorkers the global health crisis seemed to be a distant memory as they enjoyed a drink with friends outside the city’s bars and restaurants Wednesday night.
Photos show drinkers gathered outside outside East Village favorite Yuca Bar , where people slid their masks down their faces so they could swig from beers in plastic cups.
Many were ignoring social distancing guidelines as they gathered close together at the entrance to the hatch serving takeout drinks.
It was a similar story across all parts of Manhattan, with New Yorkers in Upper East Side – some wearing masks and some not – seen propping up the doorway to Eli’s Essentials like a bar.
Meanwhile, a group of friends were seen doing a cheers with their drinks outside The Spotted Owl Tavern in Manhattan’s Alphabet City.
Outside the popular Skinny Bar and Lounge in East Village the party appeared to be in full swing, with a group gathered out the front reveling in the balmy spring evening.
Some drinkers perched on stools outside the bar laughing and joking with each other.
The revelry continued with some drinkers pictured downing some mid-week shots on the sidewalk, while a couple were seen kissing through their masks.
Many food and drink establishments that shuttered when the outbreak ramped up across the state and when the stay-at-home order was issued are now reopening for takeout service, as the lockdown rumbles on and they seek new ways to keep their businesses afloat.
The restaurant and bar industry has been hardest hit by the pandemic, with stark data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and collated by the National Restaurant Association revealing that a staggering six million restaurant workers have lost their jobs during the pandemic.
Three decades of restaurant jobs have been lost in two months and industry employment has fallen to its lowest level since 1989.
In New York City alone, lockdown has thrown the jobs of more than 150,000 people working in restaurants and bars into jeopardy.
Experts have predicted that one in four restaurants will go out of business as a result of the weeks-long lockdown measures put in place by the majority of US states to stop the spread of COVID-19.
New York restaurants and bars were first shuttered more than nine weeks ago on March 16, with the exception of staying open for takeout service.
With lockdown rumbling on, many restaurant and bar owners who chose to shutter completely back then have reversed their decision and reopened their doors for delivery and pick-up service only.
In East Village B&H Dairy, Gloria, Olmsted and Superiority Burger have all reopened for takeout service in recent weeks, while Flatiron’s Eisenberg’s Sandwich Shop has also made a return, joining MeMe’s Diner in Prospect Heights.
Many are exploring the option after their businesses have been hammered over the last two months leaving them struggling to pay rent and keep a roof over their heads.
Over in Jackson Heights, Alejandro Osorio, co-owner of Arepa Lady told Grub Street the restaurant reopened last Friday to try to keep some income coming in.
‘Rent keeps accumulating,’ Osorio told Grub Street. ‘Is it better to get a little something than nothing? I don’t know.’
Others said they are becoming more comfortable with navigating some sort of reopened business as cases and deaths from the virus ease across the city.
‘We had been talking about it, you know, for a while. I guess, officially, I would say about a month ago. It’s basically like opening a whole new restaurant, with the takeout and delivery, because it wasn’t something we were doing previously,’ Lisa Limb from the West Village’s Nami Nori told Grub Street.
And many have cited challenges in restaurants and bars using the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program, leaving them with no choice but to reopen one way or another.
The PPP was designed to give money to small businesses with 500 employees or less to help them survive the economic downturn during the coronavirus crisis, ensuring they can still pay their employees and bills, and avoid mass layoffs.
Companies that use the money to avoid layoffs will not have to pay the money back as long as 75 percent of the funds are used to pay staff.
But famed restaurateur Thomas Keller, behind New York eateries Per Se and TAK Room, told CNN Wednesday that it falls short of providing much-needed relief for restaurants.
Keller pointed out that restaurants cannot use the PPP loans for wages because they are unable to rehire their workforce as sites stay closed – while the restaurant owners continue to grapple with the prospect of affording restaurant operating costs.
‘We have not been able to take the PPP loans as we cannot open our restaurants,’ he said.
‘The restaurant profession is much much different to other businesses.’
And New Yorkers are only too happy to help the ailing businesses, with rising temperatures sending people in their droves to bars to pickup a takeout cocktail or beer to enjoy in the sunshine.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio issued a warning to revelers at the weekend seen gathering in the streets and ignoring social distancing.
‘I’m not comfortable at all with people congregating outside bars,’ de Blasio said during his Sunday press briefing.
‘That violates what we’re saying about social distancing. That puts lives in danger.’
The mayor warned that police presence would be stepped up in the worst-offending areas and that businesses breaking social distancing rules would be shut down.
‘If we have to shut places down, we will if they’re starting to violate these rules,’ de Blasio said.
He singled out the Upper East Side of Manhattan as having a ‘particular problem’ over the weekend, with at least one restaurant in the area serving customers in the premises, in direct violation of the statewide emergency order, according to NBC New York.
The New York Sheriff’s Department stepped up their presence in the area Sunday night to enforce social distancing guidelines.
But similar scenes have been seen the following evenings.
On Monday, de Blasio raised concerns again and told New Yorkers not to congregate on the sidewalks with their takeout drinks.
‘Get your drink. Go home. Don’t allow gatherings to occur. It’s not safe,’ the mayor said.
It is illegal to drink alcohol in public places in the city, including being in possession of an open container of alcohol.
People caught doing in Manhattan so will not be arrested but can be issued a summons or a ticket.
As of Wednesday there are 192,374 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 16,153 people have been killed across new York City.