46 percent don't expect business to survive without financial aid. 

Last year was a nightmare scenario for most New York City operators, and the numbers prove as much, according to data from the NYC Hospitality Alliance. 

A survey of 400 restaurants and bars revealed that 75 percent saw year-end revenue declines of at least 50 percent while 21 percent experienced drops of 26 to 50 percent. This year didn’t bring a change in fortune either—50 percent reported average weekly revenue decreases of 90 to 100 percent in January. 

Forty-nine percent of operators said financial aid to cover rent is the most-needed form of support, while 41 percent said payroll was the most important. Forty-six percent don’t expect their business to survive without adequate aid. 

In response to those worries, Congress passed President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which includes $28.6 billion in direct funding for independents and small chains. 

“The survival of our restaurants and bars is essential to the economic recovery of New York City, so the continued number and nature of these struggling small businesses is alarming” said Andrew Rigie, executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance, in a statement. “The federal financial relief for the restaurant industry championed by Senate Majority Leader Schumer and signed by President Biden was a crucial lifeline for thousands of our restaurants, but without a continuous and concerted effort at all levels of government to revive the industry, the chances of recovery for these businesses and the city will only diminish.”

The figures come a month after the NYC Hospitality Alliance reported 92 percent couldn’t afford to pay rent in December—a number that has steadily increased throughout COVID. In June, it was 80 percent. By July, 83 percent. In August and October, 87 and 88 percent, respectively.

The New York State Restaurant Association said in December that one out of every six restaurants closed. According to an estimation, that meant 8,333 restaurants in New York—4,500 of which are in NYC—shuttered their doors.

Restaurateurs have dealt with constant changes to government restrictions in the past year. New York City, which was a COVID epicenter at one point, first shut down in-person dining in March 2020. Three months later, outdoor dining was allowed. 

Indoor dining was supposed to come back during the summer, as well, but rises in COVID cases halted the move. It wasn’t until the end of September that dining rooms reopened at 25 percent capacity. Cuomo then decided to shut down indoor dining in early December when hospital bed capacity dipped below 20 percent. In-restaurant dining returned once again at 25 percent in February. This month, the capacity moved to 50 percent. 

Although the direct grants from the federal government is a good start, NYC restaurateurs insist that more assistance is needed. 

“The industry needs continued financial support in the form of rent relief and payroll assistance, plus the extension of the moratorium on commercial rent evictions, and it’s critical that New York follows the science and reopens indoor dining to higher occupancy as restaurants outside of the five boroughs have done safely and responsibly for months,” Rigie said. 

A deeper look at the survey:

What percent did your restaurant or bar’s annual sales decline in 2020 compared to 2019?

  • 0-25 percent: 4 percent
  • 26-50 percent: 21 percent
  • 51-75 percent: 31 percent
  • 76-100 percent: 44 percent

What percent did your restaurant or bar’s average weekly sales decline in December 2020 compared to December 2019?

  • 50-59 percent: 7 percent
  • 60-69 percent: 9 percent
  • 70-79 percent: 16 percent
  • 80 to 89 percent: 15 percent
  • 90 to 100 percent: 39 percent

What percent did your restaurant or bar’s average weekly sales decline in January 2021 compared to January 2020?

  • 50-59 percent: 7 percent
  • 60-69 percent: 8 percent
  • 70-79 percent: 10 percent
  • 80 to 89 percent: 10 percent
  • 90 to 100 percent: 50 percent

Financial support from government for which your restaurant or bar’s expenses is the most critical while COVID-19 restrictions are in effect?

  • Rent: 49 percent
  • Payroll: 41 percent
  • Utilities: 3 percent
  • Vendor: 3 percent
  • Other: 3 percent
  • Don’t need support: 1 percent

Without adequate financial aid and ongoing policies from government, do you think your restaurant or bar will ultimately stay in business post-pandemic?

  • No: 46 percent
  • Unsure: 39 percent
  • Yes: 15 percent
Consumer Trends, Feature, Finance