NYC restaurateurs are pressing on with openings amid COVID-19 restrictions
Welcome to our grand opening — and yes, we will probably be shutting down soon.
A handful of New York City restaurateurs recently have been opening new eateries, even as some admit they will likely close within days or weeks as state officials impose fresh pandemic restrictions.
A few, meanwhile, claim they’ve found the secret sauce — negotiating favorable rents that they say will keep them alive during the pandemic and beyond.
Last Wednesday, Gray Hawk Grill, whose executive chef, Anthony DiCocco , has cooked for celebs including Jennifer Lopez, Sir Elton John and Mary J. Blige, opened its doors at 1556 Second Ave. on the Upper East Side.
The American-style venue, whose go-to items will include baked clams, butternut squash soup and filet mignon, is the culmination of a 25-year dream for veteran restaurant manager Steve Millan.
“I wasn’t going to walk away from something that I’ve dreamt of doing for so many years,” Millan told Side Dish.
The pandemic caught Gray Hawk Grill by surprise. Millan signed the lease a week before the March lockdown.
Then came the construction build, which took longer than planned because of the outbreak.
“We thought 25 percent indoor-seating capacity would lead to 50, then 75 and 100, and now it looks like it will go back to zero,” Millan said, referring to recent warnings from Gov. Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio that restaurant closures are likely coming.
Nevertheless, Millan says that opening now, even with limited indoor hours and capacity, is “better than not opening” at all. When the clampdown on indoor dining comes, he plans to pivot to heated outdoor dining and delivery.
He says he hopes the landlord — who has been understanding so far — will work with him.
“I’m in it for the long haul,” he said, adding that he signed a 15-year lease with a five-year extension option.
Other restaurateurs are taking an even bolder approach, signing leases even after the pandemic hit.
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