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The restaurant is a Greenwich Village gem
Perla, the popular restaurant on Minetta Lane in New York's Greenwich Village, was shuttered during service last night by the Department of Health. A tipster let us know that the city agency conducted an inspection during dinnertime and closed the restaurant down on the spot, and the yellow sign on the restaurant's window (left) tells the rest of the story: it's been shuttered, and won't be opening back up until they clean up their act.
The restaurant, which is run by Gabe Stulman (of Joseph Leonard and Fedora fame), opened with much fanfare last year and has been one of the neighborhood's most popular restaurants since.
Their page on the Department of Health's website has yet to be updated (it still displays their "B" rating from January, citing evidence of mice and improper sanitation), but we're sure all the details from last night's inspection will be made public soon. We've reached out to the restaurant for comment and will update when more information becomes available.
UPDATE: Here's what Stulman told Grub Street:
"The Department of Health stopped by Perla last night and we were dinged with two violations. One was for a bartender not wearing gloves while shaking a cocktail and the other was for our walk-in refrigerator not holding temperature. They chose to shut us down for the night. We have already fixed all the issues and plan to be open for dinner service as regularly planned tonight."
Art Studio To Resurrect Former Landmark New Jersey Mural
PATERSON, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — A hulking mural that reigned as a landmark for decades in a northern New Jersey borough is making a comeback.
The 200-by-50-foot mural once mounted on the facade of a shuttered department store in Paramus will be on display for the first time in more than two decades next month, CBS2’s Christine Sloan reports.
Officials say the mural has been in storage but will be moving to the Art Factory, an artists’ studio space in Paterson, starting Thursday morning.
The menagerie of colors was made by Polish artist Stefan Knapp who painted it with a mop in an airplane hangar. It was placed on the facade of Alexander’s department store, which opened in 1961.
“We are going to take these tiles unwrap them and try to assemble them however we can so the public will be able to see them for the first time in 20 years,” said Art Factory manager David Garcia.
These abstract tiles, enamel baked on steel, have historical significance.
The menagerie of colors was made by Polish artist Stefan Knapp who painted it with a mop in an airplane hangar (Credit: Bergen Museum of Art and Science)
“We didn’t really have these department stores before and these directors were smart enough to know they had to do something as a public give back,” said Dorothy Nicklus, Bergen Museum of Art and Science.
The store closed in 1992 and several years later the mural was dismantled.
(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
Historic NYC Pub McSorley's Shut Down by Department of Health
McSorley's patrons have included President Lincoln and John Lennon.
As if 2016 hasn&apost already wreaked enough havoc on our fragile emotional states, on Wednesday, New York City&aposs Department of Health temporarily shuttered legendary East Village bar McSorley&aposs. While, so far, no reason has been provided for the closure, neighborhood blog EV Grieve points out the unfortuitous timing: "Given the bar&aposs ample presidential paraphernalia, an inspection the day after Election Night seems curious."
According to a report on the DoH website, McSorley&aposs last passed its inspection in May this yearrning an A, with only two violation points for "Sanitary violations: Non-food contact surface improperly constructed. Unacceptable material used. Nonfood contact surface or equipment improperly maintained and/or not properly sealed, raised, spaced or movable to allow accessibility for cleaning on all sides, above, and underneath the unit."
Opened in 1854, McSorley&aposs is Manhattan&aposs "oldest continuously operated saloon," according to its website. McSorley&aposs bar patrons have included President Lincoln and John Lennon𠅊nd in 1970, women were finally allowed into the venue for the first time, following a Supreme Court case waged by attorney Faith Seidenberg and her friend Karen DeCrow, who later went on to become president of the National Organization of Women. "On Aug. 10, 1970, after a federal judge issued a landmark ruling in their favor and on the very afternoon that Mayor John V. Lindsay signed legislation barring discrimination in public places on the basis of sex, the manager of McSorley&aposs invited Barbara Shaum, who owned a leather goods store two doors away, into the tavern as the first female patron admitted under the new law," the New York Times writes.
As for this week&aposs events, Eater points out that the bar has had to make decor adjustments and repatriate its house cats in recent years: "McSorley&aposs had to tell its lounging kitties to take a hike six years ago, and that same year, proprietor Matthew Maher had to remove and clean the dozen or so wishbones that hung from a chandelier above the bar."
14 Iconic Retailers That Fell Into Pandemic Bankruptcy
by Andy Markowitz, AARP, Updated May 4, 2021 | Comments: 0
En español | COVID-19 did not create the so-called retail apocalypse. More than 9,300 U.S. stores closed in 2019, and over 5,800 did the year before that, according to tracking by Coresight Research. A timeline by business analytics firm CB Insights dates the apocalypse to at least 2015.
But the pandemic has been its most swiftly destructive horseman. Following years that saw major retailers swapping hands in debt-bingeing buyouts while consumers shifted from shopping malls to shopping online, the mass shutdown of 2020 pushed some of America’s most iconic brands to the brink.
The pandemic brought a parade of headline-making Chapter 11 filings, with historic department stores and apparel purveyors at the front. And while bankruptcy doesn’t necessarily mean out of business, the financial fallout from COVID-19 did kill a few storied chains, shrink others and usher several into a new, online-only form. Here are some of the biggest-name bankruptcies to date and what their reorganizations wrought.
Ascena Retail (Lane Bryant, Ann Taylor)
Founded: 1962 (as DressBarn)
Filed for bankruptcy: July 23, 2020
Facing some $1 billion in debt, the company behind some of the best-known names in women’s fashion sold all its brands and shed most of its approximately 2,800 stores as part of a Chapter 11 restructuring that won court approval in March.
Ascena’s biggest names — plus-size bellwether Lane Bryant and premium brands Ann Taylor, Loft and Lou & Grey — were sold in December to an affiliate of private equity firm Sycamore Partners, which owns Belk (see below) and several other well-known chains. Two other Ascena brands — tween fashion chain Justice and plus-size line Catherines — were sold earlier in 2020 and closed all their stores (Catherines continues to operate online).
The original bankruptcy filing came about seven months after Ascena liquidated the last stores in its original line, DressBarn, which now operates online only under new ownership.
Filed for bankruptcy: Feb. 23, 2021
The venerable department store that brands itself the home of “Modern. Southern. Style.” spent only a day in Chapter 11, emerging from bankruptcy Feb. 24 with court approval of a reorganization plan that provides $225 million in new capital and eliminates $450 million in debt.
Belk’s chief financial officer said in a court declaration that the company faced liquidation without fast action on the restructuring blueprint worked out between its majority owner, Sycamore Partners, and key lenders. The deal kept open all 291 Belk stores in 16 Southern and Southeastern states, with no job losses.
Founded by brothers William Henry and John Belk in Monroe, North Carolina, Belk grew into the nation’s largest privately owned department store chain and stayed in the family until Sycamore’s 2015 leveraged buyout, which left the company heavily indebted. The pandemic further walloped Belk’s finances, prompting restructuring talks to start in late 2020, according to court papers.
Filed for bankruptcy: July 8, 2020
The brand that for generations defined the American way of dressing for success — especially the American male executive way — faced strong headwinds as people increasingly dressed down for the office and then, with the pandemic, stopped going entirely. When it entered Chapter 11, the country’s oldest ready-to-wear clothing retailer had already opted not to reopen 20 percent of its roughly 250 U.S. stores that went dormant in March, and it’s expected to close its three U.S. factories.
In a post on its Facebook page, Brooks Brothers said bankruptcy proceedings would help it facilitate an ongoing sale process while managing “what has been an incredibly challenging period for all industries, especially retail.” A joint venture of mall developer Simon Property Group and Authentic Brands Group, a brand-management firm, won court approval Aug. 17 to buy Brooks Brothers for $325 million. The new owners pledged to keep at least 125 Brooks Brothers stores open.
The joint venture, called the Sparc Group, has also purchased bankrupt jeans retailer Lucky Brand.
CEC Entertainment (Chuck E. Cheese)
Filed for bankruptcy: June 25, 2020
The 600-plus restaurant chain — whose pizza, arcade games and (until it was retired in 2019) animatronic band fueled countless raucous kids’ parties — was especially hard-hit by a pandemic that halted dining out and large gatherings virtually overnight. The company saw revenue plummet by 90 percent, increasing pressure to deal with nearly $1 billion in long-term debt.
CEC, which also owns the similarly themed Peter Piper Pizza chain, completed its restructuring at the end of 2020 with new ownership and about $705 million less in debt. The company and its franchisees operate 559 Chuck E. Cheese and 122 Peter Piper Pizza locations, most of which have reopened since the wave of coronavirus closures in the spring of 2020. About four dozen locations shuttered during the pandemic were closed permanently.
Century 21 Stores
Filed for bankruptcy: Sept. 10, 2020
The family-owned department store that pioneered off-price retail in downtown Manhattan closed all 13 of its mostly New York City–area locations under Chapter 11 proceedings but recently announced comeback plans.
Billing itself as “New York’s Best Kept Secret,” Century 21 offered deep discounts on designer clothes and accessories. The original store, located in the shadow of the World Trade Center, survived the 9/11 terror attacks. But the company was unable to outlast the pandemic, blaming its demise on insurers declining to pay $175 million in claims Century 21 contended it was owed under business-interruption policies.
In February, Century 21 announced it would “officially relaunch” in 2021, starting with its first international store in Busan, South Korea. That store is set to open in early summer, followed by “further global expansion as well as the relaunch of the brand in New York and across the country,” the company said.
Mapping 20 New York Institutions That Rent Hikes Shuttered
In New York City, more than anywhere else, the cliche holds true: the only constant is change. Some businesses aren't destined for long-term success. Others, however, could stay with us for a long time, if only they were given a fair shot. That's the sentiment driving the new #SaveNYC movement, which officially kicked off in March thanks to the perseverance of Jeremiah Moss. Yes, he of the nostalgia-filled, openly cranky blog that chronicles the travails and closings of long-time institutions: Jeremiah's Vanishing New York. The group's goal is to "protect and preserve the diversity and uniqueness of the urban fabric in New York City" by passing what advocates call the Small Business Jobs Survival Act, which would enpower small businesses to negotiate fair lease renewals with their landlordstaking some of the power out of property owners' hands and thereby stemming the tide of mass evictions and catastrophic rent hikes. Moss started the #SaveNYC Facebook page in December, and now its 4,273 members regularly discuss how to raise awareness about institutions that have closed because of outsized rents.
Thanks to Jeremiah (not his real name), below please find 20 noteworthy, and often beloved, businesses that have closed in the past year or soor are about to close. There are no doubt more, especially because this list hones in on Manhattan. Please leave any suggestions in the comments below.
Subway restaurants have been closed for health violations more than any other chain in the city
The chain's outlets were shuttered more often by city health inspectors than any other major franchise, a Daily News analysis of Health Department data found.
And while it was unclear if Jared's fabled weight loss was due to an upset stomach, Subway stores were shut down a whopping 55 times in the last five years.
Subway officials insist the majority of its 372 city restaurants live up to its "eat fresh" slogan.
"Nearly 90% of the locations have an 'A' rating, and some 30 locations have not received their ratings yet," said company spokesman Les Winograd. "Violations are not tolerated."
Despite the 55 Subway shutdowns, City Health Department spokeswoman Chanel Caraway was quick to note that "an individual restaurant's inspection history does not reflect a chain's performance."
Subway patrons were left with indigestion over the revelation.
"I'm completely shocked," said Keisha Battiste, 39, a flight attendant from Harlem. "That's really gross actually. It will definitely affect whether I go to Subway. The $5 foot-long isn't worth me throwing up."
Kennedy Fried Chicken franchises came in second with 31 closures, Dunkin' Donuts had 23, Crown Fried Chicken was third with 22 and Golden Krust rounded out the infamous top five with 20.
Abdul Haye, who trademarked his recipe for Kennedy Fried Chicken in 2005 and also has a hand in Crown Fried Chicken, claimed city inspectors were picking on him.
"The city Health Department has a lot of problems," Haye told The News. "They are looking for money for no reasons."
Since 2008, nearly 600 other grimy local eateries have been shuttered due to a litany of violations only to reopen right afterwards and then fail another inspection, according to city Health Department records obtained via the Freedom of Information Law.
A dirty dozen eateries, bakeries and small franchises have been temporarily padlocked four separate times for a menu of sickening sanctions including mouse feces, dirty containers and food left unrefrigerated.
"The Health Department temporarily closes restaurants when find we public health hazards that cannot be corrected immediately," Caraway explained.
"Repeat offenders are inspected more frequently and additional training may be required for staff."
The Bloomberg administration contends beefed up inspections under its new grading system are compelling restaurants to clean up their acts.
The tally of restaurants closed by city inspectors jumped more than 17% in 2011 to 1,504 — up from 1,282 in 2010.
Subway and most other large franchises employ their own inspectors — yet those reviews often are superficial, industry experts say.
"You can have a clean restaurant like Subway but if the food isn't handled properly and contaminated it can be a real problem," said Romel Balchan, a former city inspector who now works as a consultant for restaurants.
Other chains with stores that have been closed 10 or more times include McDonald's, Blimpie and Domino's Pizza.
60-Year-Old Harlem Rib Joint That Served the Beatles Fights to Stay Afloat
Sherann Grinan is trying to raise $15,000 to reopen Sherman's Barbecue in Harlem which was shuttered because of health violations. Ronnie Spector took the Beatles to eat at Sherman's Barbecue. View Full Caption
HARLEM — When The Beatles invaded the United States in 1964, Ronnie Spector of the girls group the Ronettes took them to Sherman's Barbecue in Harlem.
Its owner, the late Sherman Hibbitt, was known as the "unofficial mayor of Harlem" and had met and taken pictures with President Harry Truman and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, among others.
"I love Sherman's because it was a half a block from where I lived and my father loved it and it was open late. I loved their spaghetti," Spector told DNAinfo in an interview. "It was exciting going to Sherman's when they had the jukebox and the picture of Mr. Sherman with the presidents hanging on the wall in the 50's. It made you feel like somebody."
The chain, which opened in 1948, once had five locations in Harlem, each selling only nine items. Among them are the pork barbecue ribs, pigs feet and barbecue chicken. The restaurant's famous spaghetti is even made with barbecue sauce.
Now, 63 years after opening, Sherman's is down to one takeout-only location on Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard between West 145th and 146th streets. But that location has been shuttered since August because of health violations. Hibbitt's daughter and owner Sherann Grinan is desperately trying to raise $15,000 to pay the fines and re-open what some consider to be one of Harlem's hidden treasures.
"In my heart, I'm like we have to reopen," said Grinan, 55, after ticking off the list of celebrities who had visited Sherman's.
The list includes the late Percy Sutton, who was Malcolm X's lawyer and the city's highest ever elected black official when he became Manhattan Borough President in 1966. Music greats like the Isley Brothers and the Sugar Hill Gang also ate there.
Spector's husband and manager Jonathan Greenfield told DNAinfo in an interview that she may have even brought the Rolling Stones to Sherman's.
"It's part of the folklore about Harlem, Ronnie and the English groups going to Sherman's," said Greenfield. The couple was there as recently as a year ago. "Ronnie loves Sherman's. I love Sherman's. I used to love watching her go there."
The trouble began on Aug 8. after a visit from the health department. The restaurant was cited for several critical violations, including evidence of mice and roaches, cold food being held above the required temperature and improper storage of hot foods. The health department ordered the restaurant closed.
Grinan said a burst pipe had flooded the seldom-used basement, causing problems with the motors used to power the freezers. The restaurant received an A grade with only seven violation points as recently as October 2010.
On the day of the closure, the shop had just opened when the inspector arrived and workers noticed lower water pressure and were concerned about the freezer temperature but thought it was due to the warm weather.
"I can't fault the health department. They have to abide by the rules and standards they have because they don't want anyone to get sick," said Grinan who says she has repaired the problems she was cited for but still finds herself trapped in a Catch-22.
She can't reopen until she gets a re-inspection, which, in turn, can't be scheduled until she pays the fines. But with the doors to her restaurant closed, she has no way to raise the money she needs to pay the fines. In addition, her three employees remain out of work.
"When it comes to paying the fines, if I can't operate, I will go out of business. I can't pay my rent. Con Ed doesn't want to hear it," said Grinan.
Her landlord has been understanding even though she is now four months behind. Contractors such as plumbers and exterminators have been willing to work with her because of the restaurant's longstanding relationships in Harlem — they've bought the french bread patrons dip into the spaghetti sauce from the same bakery for 50 years.
Grinan has been hosting garage sales with items donated by some of her long-time customers to raise money for the fines. So far she's only managed to raise a few hundred dollars.
"I've seen a lot of our Ma and Pa stores and restaurants go out of business due to the economy mostly. Sherman's has been a historic restaurant for many generations," said long-time customer Delores Renee.
The store has two orange health department signs out front announcing that the restaurant is closed and a sign from Grinan saying that no food or drink is being sold. Another signs tells customers that repairs are being made as rapidly as possible to reopen.
A sign that once read Sherman's Bar B. Q. has lost its first four letters and now only reads "Man's Bar B.Q." The chain once provided full sit-down service but scaled back in the 1970s when stick-ups became all too common and many others were abandoning Harlem.
If the restaurant were open, orders would be taken from behind bullet-proof plexiglass and money would be passed on a Lazy Susan. The pictures of Hibbitt with Harry Truman and Langston Hughes are in storage. The walls are white and bare. But customers don't come for the ambiance, they come for the food.
"I was praying you were open because I really wanted some ribs," said one man who came into the storefront one afternoon.
"Soon. We are trying to open soon," Grinan told the man almost apologetically.
More than the celebrities who came to the restaurant, it's the cops and late-night workers such as MTA employees, Harlem Hospital workers and taxi drivers that Grinan says she misses serving. It's the vegetarian who secretly slips in once a year because he loves the ribs.
"Our food is unique. I can't say we serve Louisiana ribs or even Midwestern style ribs. These are Harlem-style ribs," said Grinan.
That's why she just can't let the restaurant go.
Grinan has worked there for three decades, more than half her life. She has too many memories of her father, wearing a suit covered by a white apron, doing whatever needed to be done— from fixing the plumbing, working the late shift and cooking up ribs— to give the place up without a fight.
"He was dedicated to this place. This was his whole life," said Grinan. "I'm struggling to keep this open because this is something I now love."
Over the last week, the state has reported an average of 2,766 new coronavirus cases per day, a 35% decrease from two weeks ago, data compiled by The Times show.
Statewide, 2,586 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized Monday 635 were in intensive care. Both figures have returned to levels not seen since the beginning of California’s last surge.
The number of newly reported COVID-19 deaths also continues to decline but is not yet down to pre-surge levels. An average of 183 Californians died from the disease every day during the last week, and the state’s total death toll has surpassed 57,200.
As of Tuesday, California’s seven-day case rate per 100,000 people was among the lowest in the nation, at 46.8, according to the CDC. The only states with better rates were Arizona, 46.1, Oregon, 45.5, and Hawaii, 37.
Case rates over the same period were 319.2 in New Jersey, 311.1 in New York City, 222.1 in the rest of New York state, 162.8 in Pennsylvania, 143.9 in Florida, and 91.6 in Texas.
The most recent nationwide case rate was 116.1.
But just because California is measuring up well doesn’t mean it’s time to celebrate, Ferrer warned.
“This past year indicates that often the East Coast experiences increases in cases before the West Coast and that, typically, L.A. County is a few weeks behind New York,” she told the county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday. “While conditions have definitely changed, particularly as we’ve vaccinated millions of individuals over the past three months, we do not yet have enough vaccine protection across the county to prevent more transmission if we’re not extraordinarily careful in these next few weeks.”
In the race to improve vaccination rates in California’s most vulnerable areas, community groups are leading the charge.
Cracking Down on Calming Cocktails
The classic American brunch: a stack of pancakes feathered in fruit, alongside a dollop of whipped cream infused with CBD—it gives an immediate sugar rush and then slowly makes you feel calm and relaxed. It’s an upgrade to contemporary cuisine: CBD-infused everything. That was the vision of Zsolt “George” Csonka, the owner of Adriaen Block—New York City’s very first CBD cocktail bar, recently shuttered in Astoria.
You may have heard about CBD or seen it advertised as a coffee additive at cafés across Brooklyn and Manhattan. CBD (cannabidiol) is a non-psychoactive compound found in marijuana that has less than .3% THC—meaning it won’t get you high. It’s received widespread praise over the last year by consumers who claim that it relieves anxiety, stress and even soothes muscular aches. The craze has influenced a rise in various CBD products: tinctures, candies, beauty care items, body lotions and now food and cocktails.
When I first visited Adriaen Block last fall, in what Csonka called the bar’s “honeymoon season,” he spoke optimistically about a shift in the boozy brunch and nightlife culture. New York City, infamous for both scenes, was on track to become a hub for people who drink to acquire a calming sensation in lieu of a buzz.
“People are catching on and actually adapting CBD to their lifestyle. It’s not just going to be a trend, it’s going to become a lifestyle,” Csonka said at the time.
While Adriaen Block was just in its infancy, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) negated CBD’s therapeutic claims and still considered it a drug. Similarly, it was disapproved of by scientists who argued that more studies need to be conducted to prove the health benefits touted by CBD retailers. Meanwhile, at the bar, customers would ask “What’s CBD?” and “Is it legal?”
In December 2018, the FDA declared that adding CBD to any food or drink would not be allowed at restaurants or through food/beverage services. New York City’s Department of Health also prohibited it as a food additive. Since then, health inspectors have started cracking down on restaurants and cafés—seizing thousands of dollars worth of CBD products. They sent a letter to all local CBD businesses in New York City to comply with the regulation by June and to stop selling products entirely by October.
“It literally killed my business,” Csonka told me in May, just a week after Astoria’s Adriaen Block officially closed its doors. “I tried to believe that everything was going to be OK, but the damage was already done.”
Adriaen Block was all about Csonka’s concept: a CBD bar and eatery. Taking away CBD from that equation just didn’t feel right to him, so he opted to shut the restaurant down. Loyal regulars celebrated one last time at the Block’s farewell party on Cinco de Mayo.
But Csonka, a CBD user himself, still believes in all of its positive effects and has hope that CBD legislation will become more clear in the near future, in which case he’d consider resuming his restaurant.
According to a nationwide survey, over 80% of American CBD consumers believe CBD has helped them with various symptoms. “Everybody knows about CBD now,” Csonka said. Still, CBD is not for everyone. It can taste rusty, as if freshly scooped from the earth’s soil.
Csonka loves the taste, but knows its flavor is not what sells the product.
When creating the recipes for the cocktails he served at Adriaen Block, he didn’t just use oil, but experimented with a combination of CBD derivatives, all sourced from a certified organic hemp farm in Brush, Colorado. Mixing the CBD with fruity shrubs, like blackberry and parsnip, and bitter twists of orange—the CBD taste would begin to melt away, along with your pre-existing stress.
On an average weekend night, nearly 100 customers filled the space. That might be because the bar employed a weekend DJ, or that people are just thirsty for CBD cocktails, or a combination of the two. In addition to whipped cream and cocktails, the Block also served five sauces infused with CBD, offered as condiments for steaks and the house hamburger. It was a vision of the future: a burger that makes you calm.
Csonka was already planning his next venture on Manhattan’s Upper East Side—a burger and cheesesteak spot that would feature at least 15 different CBD-infused sauces. He was planning to open by the end of 2019, but his plans for that have also paused, until rules and regulations for CBD change.
Amid the neighborhood’s famous hookah bars, beer gardens, Greek restaurants and hipster bars—the Block offered something comforting and different.
“For the city to stop the small businesses like mine, I don’t think that was fair,” Csonka said. Despite all the commotion and deciding to close, Csonka has not been deterred, and says that he is proud of what Adriaen Block was able to accomplish. People learned about CBD, changed their nightlife regimens and found community at the restaurant. If anything, it only bolstered the CBD movement’s popularity. Csonka says he will continue to work as a mixologist for clients who want CBD cocktails at their events.
According to the Specialty Foods Association, even if the health claims about CBD are still uncertain, the CBD-infused food trend will only continue to grow, despite confusion surrounding its legality. And if anyone can claim responsibility for bolstering this novelty movement, it’s Csonka.
‘City in transition’: New York vies to turn page on pandemic
Emily Baumgartner, left, and Luke Finley, second from left, join friends from their church group in a birthday toast to one of the members, upper right, during their weekly “Monday Night Hang” gathering at the Tiki Bar on Manhattan’s Upper West Side Monday, May 17, 2021, in New York. “Most of us live alone. and we need community. During the pandemic, we started hanging out in the park (Central Park) once a week. Once bars and restaurants reopened, we started coming back to Tiki Bar afterward. Under the latest regulations, vaccinated New Yorkers can shed their masks in most situations Wednesday. Restaurants, shops, gyms and many other businesses can go back to full occupancy if all patrons are inoculated. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
NEW YORK (AP) — More than a year after coronavirus shutdowns sent “the city that never sleeps” into a fitful slumber, New York could be wide awake again this summer.
Starting Wednesday, vaccinated New Yorkers could shed their masksin most situations, and restaurants, stores, gyms and many other businesses could go back to full capacity if they check vaccination cards or apps for proof that all patrons have been inoculated.
Subways resumed running round-the-clock this week. Midnight curfews for bars and restaurants will be gone by month’s end. Broadway tickets are on sale again, though the curtain won’t rise on any shows until September.
Officials say now is New York’s moment to shake off the image of a city brought to its knees by the virus last spring — a recovery poignantly rendered on the latest cover of The New Yorker magazine. It shows a giant door part-open to the city skyline, letting in a ray of light.
Is the Big Apple back to its old, brash self?
“Maybe 75%. … It’s definitely coming back to life,” said Mark Kumar, 24, a personal trainer.
But Ameen Deen, 63, said: “A full sense of normalcy is not going to come any time soon. There’s far too many deaths. There’s too much suffering. There’s too much inequality.”
Last spring, the biggest city in America was also the nation’s deadliest coronavirus hotspot, the site of over 21,000 deaths in just two months. Black and Hispanic patients have died at markedly higher rates than whites and Asian Americans.
Hospitals overflowed with patients and corpses. Refrigerated trailers served as temporary morgues,and tents were set up in Central Park as a COVID-19 ward. New York’s hectic streets fell quiet, save for ambulance sirens and nightly bursts of cheering from apartment windows for health care workers.
After a year of ebbs, surges, reopenings and closings, the city hopes vaccinations are turning the tide for good. About 48% of residents have had at least one dose so far. Deaths have amounted to about two dozen a day in recent weeks, and new cases and hospitalizations have plummeted from a wintertime wave.
Large swaths of the country and world are also moving toward normal after a crisis blamed for 3.4 million deaths globally, including more than 587,000 in the U.S.
Las Vegas casinos are returning to 100% capacity and no social distancing requirements. Disneyland in California opened up late last month after being shuttered for more than 400 days. Massachusetts this week announced that all virus restrictions will expire Memorial Day weekend.
Summer music festivals like Lollapalooza are back on, the Indy 500 is bracing for more than 100,000 fans, and the federal government says fully vaccinated adults no longer need to wear masks.
France opened back up on Wednesday as well, with the Eiffel Tower, Parisian cafes and cinemas and the Louvre bringing back visitors for the first time in months.
In New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio has declared it the “summer of New York City.”
As the mask requirement eased statewide Wednesday, businesses grappled with enforcing different rules for vaccinated and unvaccinated people. Some people bared their faces on the city’s streets, while others still wore masks.
The city’s elected public advocate, Jumaane Williams, urged people to keep masking up, at least indoors. He noted that under half of residents are vaccinated citywide, and under a third in some neighborhoods.
“We don’t want to put people who haven’t yet received the vaccine in a position where they could become stigmatized or pressured for not wearing a mask,” he said.
There are other signs New York is regaining its bustle. Some 80,000 city employees returned to their offices at least part time this month others already were working in person.
Subway and commuter rail ridership is averaging about 40% of normal after plunging to 10% last spring, when the subway system began closing for several hours overnightfor the first time in its more than 115-year history.
Shakeem Brown, an artist and delivery person who works late in Manhattan, spent up to three hours a night commuting back to his Queens apartment before 24/7 service resumed Monday. Brown, 26, said it’s “refreshing” to see things opening up.
At e’s Bar on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, “we feel the energy” of social life ramping up, co-owner Erin Bellard said. “People are so excited to be out.”
Still, receipts at the bar and grill have been down about 35% because of pandemic restrictions on hours and capacity, she said. The impending end of the midnight curfew will give the bar two more crucial hours, and the owners are considering whether to regain full capacity by requiring vaccinations.
From other vantage points, “normal” looks farther off.
The sidewalks and skyscrapers of midtown Manhattan, for instance, are still noticeably empty. Big corporate employers largely aren’t looking to bring more workers back until fall, and only if they feel it’s safe, said Kathryn Wylde, CEO of the Partnership for New York City, a major employers group.
“Shutting down was easy. Reopening is hard,” Wylde said. “All the employers say that there still is fear and some resistance to coming back.”
Besides virus fears, companies and workers are wondering about safety, she said.
Crime in the city has become a growing source of concern, but it’s a complicated picture. Murders, shootings, felony assaults and auto thefts rose in the first four months of this year compared with the same period in pre-pandemic 2019, but robberies and grand larcenies fell. So did crime in the transit system, probably because of the drop in ridership.
Brandon Goldgrub returned to his midtown office in July, but just in the last few weeks, he has noticed the sidewalks seem a bit crowded again.
“Now I feel it’s a lot more normal,” said Goldgrub, 30, a property manager.
Visiting from Tallahassee, Florida, Jessica Souva looked around midtown and felt hopeful about the city where she used to live.
“All we heard, elsewhere in the country, was that New York was a ghost town, and this doesn’t feel like that,” said Souva, 47. “It feels like a city in transition.”
Associated Press writer Michael R. Sisak contributed to this report.
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