Restaurant industry concerned as winter and omicron arrive in NYC

Coronavirus

Can restaurants weather the Omicron storm? 

There is still so much unknown about the new COVID-19 variant and how vaccine-resistant it is. But the hospitality industry is watching it closely — the pandemic has been particularly hard for restaurants. 

“I started to feel it businesswise. This week has been the slowest week of the past 3 or 4 months and some of it may be due to this new variant,” Alain Chevreux, the owner of Cafe Du Soleil, said.

The Upper West Side restaurant does have an advantage during the winter months: It has individual dining bubbles with electric heaters that keep diners warm.

Patrick Weir and his wife Suzannah enjoyed lunch Friday in one of those bubbles.

“I am more comfortable with dining than she is, and so she was very excited to be in the bubble,” he said.

Inside the restaurant, Peggy Hamilton ate lunch with her longtime friend. She said she is vaccinated and boosted and comfortable and happy inside. 

“It’s just part of the joy of living in New York is eating inside,” Hamilton said. “Eating outside was lots of fun for a while and then when it’s cold, not so much.”

According to Andrew Rigie of the New York City Hospitality Alliance, businesses are already reaching out to restaurants to move holiday parties to January.

“Every time we seem to be on some sort of road to recovery there is some other roadblock and that’s why we are going to need ongoing support from all levels of government,” Rigie said.

New York City government recently took away propane heaters as an option to keep outdoor diners warm, citing fire and environmental hazards.

New York City Councilman Keith Powers said he is hoping to reverse that. 

“I signed a letter … calling on [the Eric Adams] administration here today to keep the propane heaters in for this winter,” he said.

Powers is also seeking a path through New York City Council, he said.

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