The City Awakens!

Originally Published : June 12, 2020

It’s Alive!  It’s Moving! 
It’s Alive! It’s Alive! IT’S ALIVE!!!

It feels like the mid-90’s again in NYC.  Those were the days of illegal after-hours clubs, smoking whatever, wherever, rolling down gates for the neighborhood crowd and locking doors for dance parties in dining rooms. The LES was turning the corner, the Brooklyn pioneers were making things happen and there was a down and dirty attitude in the industry as we all fought back against Mayor Giuliani and his campaign to cleanse the city of its bawdiness and very soul.  Owners were scrappy and everything was DIY and they took chances and they did what they had to do to attract customers and have fun. It made for an exciting time on the town. Then, after Giuliani we had Bloomberg and DeBlasio and NYC continued its descent into safe and steady and predictable as it slowly started to become Boston.  Less grit, less hustle and waaaay more boring.

Now, I’m starting to see a resurgence of the NYC rebellious streak.  Bars have secretly opened, underground dinner parties are a thing and lots of impromptu seating has sprung up from the sidewalks.  Some restaurants are taking reservations online, right in the open, for their, still illegal, outdoor cafes.  Ballsy.  Owners have copped a “what’s the worst can happen?”  attitude as they try to keep their places alive. The cops have been casual. The neighbors supportive. I’m not condoning. Just noticing.

De Mayor may want to get down with ODP (Outdoor Dining Plan) already.  You can’t stop the kids from hanging out Mr. Mayor.  If they want to drink and dance and congregate and be footloose, it can’t be contained by your signs and corny slogans.  June 22nd is the first possible date for Phase 2 but we still don’t even have the plan from the city.  Polly T from DOT and DOH and DCA are all working on the plan and we hope to see it next week.  We need to know what we will be able to do with seating areas so we can start planning and buying and building.  I am hearing that Polly T is on top of things and that the agencies are putting in the effort to get it done, so I’m hopeful that they will deliver.

Our Mnain Mnan Mnooch testified before congress yesterday and told them that he was concerned about restaurants and that they need more help.  Then, today on TV he said that restaurants are going to need a lot of help–continued help, until we have a vaccine.  Not sure what all this means but he keeps using the words “restaurant” and “help” so maybe they are thinking of throwing some more money our way. 

Next up on the fight card: Tip reform and surcharges.  Time to abolish 80/20 and also allow tip sharing.  Those changes will come out of Albany.  We also need the ability to add surcharges to our checks.  Like so many other cities.  This will get done through the City Council and De Mayor if he doesn’t block it like he did the last time it was ready to pass.

Still fighting Landy every single day.  They are still being difficult and it’s not getting any easier.  At some point, they will have to break right and acknowledge that things have changed right?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  Have you ever been to your landlord’s office?  So many of these big time landlords run their operations like it’s the 1950’s.  Cheap offices. Plastic on the furniture. Stacks of paper everywhere. Cigar smoke in the air and lots of cantaloupe.

I read an article today about the dire straits of live music venues. They will be last to open, PPP doesn’t do them much help, they need crowds to make a buck and they are just getting decimated.  Any ideas on what we can do for them?  Can you imagine this city without the Bowery Ballroom or The Village Vanguard?  And what about the dance clubs?  This is an emergency!!!!

Lots happening in the wide world of licensing, so here’s Joseph.

Joey Regs says:

Booze to-go to stay?
There are a few Booze Bills making their respective ways through the NY Assembly and Senate, looking to extend certain allowances for bars & restaurants into the future and potentially in perpetuity.  Part of Cuomo’s emergency edict was that he authorized the New York State Liquor Authority to allow “on premises” licensees (bars and restaurants) to offer a full complement of alcoholic beverages for delivery and take-out.  Prior to this, you were only able to offer beer for delivery or take-out. HOWEVER, as soon as the Gov snaps his fingers, and declares the emergency “over,” these special allowances fall away.  The only way that they could be here on a more permanent basis would be if actual legislation were enacted to change the existing Alcohol Beverage Control Law.  That’s a big hill to climb though, and it takes time.  So, why not start now?? 
The Booze Bills are both still “in committee,” so they’re not even close to votes yet.  Now combine that with the fact that our electeds have been operating on a modified schedule to begin with and have already left session this week (with no exact timetable for a return), I can’t even give you a reasonable guess as to when we can expect either of these bills to get signed into law. 
If/when either Booze Bill gets signed into law, we don’t know exactly what the text will look like either.  For instance, I’d say that there is close to a ZERO percent chance that you will be able to continue selling bottles of wine and spirits on a more permanent basis.  The liquor/wine store lobby and the supermarket lobby are both hardcore against this.  And they are formidable groups.  Selling mixed drinks and cocktails to go, however, is very doable and even likely.  So, my guess is that we can find a way to get that piece to stick around for a while. 
Five regions within New York State are moving into Phase 3 today!  Not us, of course, but it’s worth noting that its happening in other areas of our state.  EVERYBODY who follows our newsletter should know what “Phase 3” is – it’s essentially Phase HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY.  I really hope it goes smoothly too.  It will only help us if it does, and could set us back if it doesn’t. 
It’s worth highlighting something that the Governor said in his briefing today: please don’t jump the gun.  The consequences could be monumental – not just for you personally, but for everyone.  If, as a restaurant or bar, you open up BEFORE the appropriate Phase officially begins, you can lose your liquor license and lose your right to operate altogether.  Those are the stakes of the game that you’re playing.  And that doesn’t even include how many lives you could potentially be putting at risk by being inordinately aggressive with something like this.  Please be patient.  
As we ramp up to reopening, we will be sharing information with you that we think is important,  We’ve been working on Restaurant Remix, a reopening guide and it’s just about complete.  We will issue it in sections, and those sections will be released as part of our regular newsletter.
There are tons of traditional hospitality industry reopening guides out there, and we didn’t feel the need to reinvent the wheel.  So, we will focus on the information that hasn’t been covered in the generic guides that are in circulation.  Parts of the guide will be “legal” in nature (think labor/employment issues, licensing issues, etc), and will be authored by our in-house attorneys and others will be more practical, and will be authored by friends of ours who have the creds and the chops to write something that we think is worth your time.
Chapter one drops next week.  The topic: food/patron/employee safety, and who better to write this section, then our dear friend, Beth Torin, former Executive Director of DOH.  Most of you probably know Beth or at least know her name, as she literally wrote the rulebook for the NYC Dept of Health, and trained all of those pesky inspectors. NOBODY knows more about food and restaurant safety than she does – especially in NYC; and now she’s on our side and we are thrilled about it.
PPP Update.
Did New Interim Final Rule Revisions come out from the SBA this week?  YES
Did they enlighten us on how the new terms will be interpreted so that we can finally plan accordingly? NO.
Right back to their old tricks of keeping us hanging.  I find myself asking, “Doesn’t anyone actually get how important this information is to us?” And, “Don’t they want to set us up for success?  And then finally, “What the actual fuck?”
Friendly reminder: We’re hosting another webinar this coming Monday, June 15, 2020 @ 3:00 PM.  The link to register is here:
The focus of this webinar will be on taking a deeper dive into what the changes enacted by the Flexibility Act [which was approved last week] actually are, and how they will affect you, your business and your forward-thinking strategizing. 

We’ve covered the changes topically in our newsletter over the last few weeks, but now we’ll be digging in a bit deeper.  As we’ve previously stated, interpretation is EVERYTHING, and we still don’t have that from the Treasury or the SBA yet (shocker).  So, we can’t give you the end all, definitive answers that we all crave quite yet.  BUT we certainly can walk you through the potential decision trees that await us all, and get you as up-to-speed as possible. Looking forward to seeing you all then!
Joey Regs Out.

as a teaser to our restaurant remix, here’s home design’s oliver haslegrave.  oliver is all about the understated and very hip lower case so i’m indulging him.  anyway, he and his team who are known around town as serious restaurant designers, came up with some cool designs and floor plans and they have been kind enough to share them with us.  ppe and spacing can look pretty snazzy if you do it right.  here’s oliver…

hi everyone!
over the last few months we’ve been creating alternate floor plans/designs for projects we’re working on to allow operators to optimize their bars and restaurants within the COVID-19 guidelines
we thought it could be helpful to consolidate what we’ve learned and share it with everyone as a resource that will hopefully be useful in preparing for reopening
in the document here: you’ll find the following:two floor plans – one for under 50 seats and one for over 50 – that show how to adapt seating and install glass partitions, door stops, health signage and hand washing/sanitizing stationsresources and specifications for partition hardware and glassresources and specifications for outdoor seating, tables, table bases, lighting and sun protectiontouch-free bathroom fixturesa few additional recommendations for face masks, door stops, sanitizer stations, etcguide for sanitary tabletop materials hope this helps!

oliver haslegrave

As Jerry and the boys like to say: Fare you well, fare you well/ I love you more than words can tell

Good night,