How NYC’s Food Scene Has Endured the COVID Era

How NYC’s Food Scene Has Endured the COVID Era

These days, the food and beverage scene in NYC is almost unrecognizable. Once bustling bistros are now cautiously spacing tables, limiting capacity and struggling to maintain staff amid the precarious balance of curfews, mandates and scurrilous patrons. 

But in the face of dizzying and complex re-openings, New Yorkers continue to unite and uplift the strained restaurant industry. Through various programs, social movements and careful re-openings, we’re fighting to protect the people and places that define so much of NYC’s charm, culture and life force. 

Quiet Kitchens of Quarantine

At some point since the beginning of the pandemic, every restaurant across the country has found themselves in the soup, so to speak. Whether their doors closed for days, weeks, or months, restaurateurs and their employees struggled with the duality of protecting and providing for their families. Street vendors packed up their carts as streets fell silent. Many NYC establishments ultimately closed their doors for good, breaking the hearts of dedicated diners and staff. 

As the months pressed on, many restaurants shifted their focus to providing take-out and delivery. Menus adapted items to be takeout-friendly, and offerings like to-go cocktails made their glorious debut. Food and beverage workers found themselves on the frontlines alongside other essential workers, throwing caution to the wind to keep their families afloat. 

Saving Private Dining

After watching neighborhood eateries and watering holes stutter to a stop, many New Yorkers couldn’t stand by and watch the tasteless tragedy take place. As chefs, servers and bartenders struggled to make ends meet with no end in sight (and even fewer employment opportunities), friends, neighbors and complete strangers staged a bold rescue. 

Platforms like #SaveNYCEats launched initiatives to support the food and beverage community, offering out-of-the-box special offers like private dining experiences or take-home meal kits to generate relief. The United States Bartenders Guild (USBG) set up nationwide fundraisers to support out-of-work barkeeps, while major companies like Miller Lite donated to rescue strapped food and beverage workers. Communities began rallying around their own, especially in NYC. 

Reviving Restaurants in NYC

More than a year later, as we are seemingly still trying to ease our way out of quarantine, many restaurants are still in the trenches. Many restaurants are still unable to resume “normal” operations amidst a flurry of ever-shifting health guidelines, legal battles, and potentially contemptuous clientele. 

However, as dining curfews lift across the city, many NYC restaurants are planning stellar comebacks; most of them will reopen with modifications and precautions in place, curbing the possibility of taking a step forward and two back.

With a glimmer of hope on the horizon, and a grain of wisdom, chefs all over the city are putting their creative juices to work brainstorming innovative ways to return to gastronomic glory in a safe manner. Propane heaters, for example, are becoming permanent fixtures on outdoor dining patios to encourage al fresco dining, even as the crispness of fall settles in.

The Favorable Future of Food

Food and beverage in NYC may never look the same, but perhaps in a good way. Through the turmoil, the toughest of the tough have prevailed, but they’ve also become better at the core. F&B workers (both active and veteran) seem to have formed an ironclad alliance to take care of one another, to support each other through thick and thin. We can only hope the city of New York can continue to mirror the respect and uplifting we saw last year, and treat these ever-essential workers with dignity and kindness. 

There’s more than meets the taste buds brewing in NYC’s food scene. The food and beverage scene in NYC has proven itself to be a rough and tumble group, able to roll with the punches and adapt in the face of adversity. So as we re-learn how to eat, drink and be merry again, remember to take it like an industry pro –– with a grain of salt. 

The Future of Virtual Events in NYC

The Future of Virtual Events in NYC

Human connections and events are taking on a new shape in NYC. This year, we’re not just talking about shifting fashion and food trends or uncanny changes in the weather. The recent past has been wrought with unexpected changes and challenges, silencing our bustling streets and forcing face-to-face events into a virtual environment that, at first, seemed surreally distant. 

Coffee dates, budget meetings, and art exposés have all found new homes on virtual platforms. We connect over Zoom, Facetime, and countless other mediums that deliver an abstract connection to life while still allowing the show to go on. 

With looming uncertainty clouding the future of in-person events, New Yorkers continue to adapt the way they come together to celebrate, collaborate and consume culture. Now that we’ve (mostly) overcome the initial unease of remote connection, virtual events have become an expected and often welcome gathering space that isn’t going anywhere.

Virtual Takeover

Virtual events in NYC began as an emergency intervention to allow life to continue in the face of the unexpected. Now, they not only provide a safe space for us to come together, but they are also expanding the reach of innovation and cultural display further than ever before. 

With widespread virtual rendezvous taking place daily, we’re less limited by the boundaries of geography and gripping schedules. It’s now fully acceptable to attend most meetings through a screen, with or without pants. You can dial into a board meeting in San Francisco at lunchtime and still catch the opening notes of the Carnegie Hall concerto you’ve been looking forward to later that evening. 

Although Americans, and worldwide citizens, hope to leave the effects of the pandemic in the past sooner than later, the virtual event race may linger on a lasting note indefinitely. Virtual gathering spaces are staking more than a temporary claim on event real estate. Since 2019, the global virtual events industry has experienced an atomic boom that will likely continue blooming for the foreseeable future. 

Versatile Virtual Events in NYC

Even with pandemic-era cautions in place, the cultural events that make NYC buzz have again taken to the stage thanks to virtual attendance. With online happenings now being held from Broadway to breweries, NYC residents and netizens alike can participate in virtual events from beer tastings and botanical garden tours to operas and play readings. You can even take a virtual stroll over the Brooklyn Bridge while you enjoy your morning coffee in a quiet kitchen.

Though the theater industry was crippled during the pandemic, Broadway and other theater productions are gearing up for a comeback. As companies prepare for a cautious jumpstart to rehearsals and productions, they’ll also supplement theater ticket sales with virtual broadcasts. Virtual meet-and-greets, lessons, and classrooms are also available to patrons worldwide, creating exciting behind-the-scenes opportunities for theater hopefuls and admirers alike.

It’s not unreasonable to predict that the rush of virtual events will forever change the way NYC culture is viewed and absorbed worldwide. Even as the human race eases back into “normal,” you can expect virtual event options to remain a staple. Aside from the worldwide reach they provide, virtual attendance also stands to supplement a significant economic boost to the companies that provide both the technology and the content. 

Here (and There) to Stay

Though we’ve lost some of the social stimulation that in-person interaction provides, we stand to gain so much more in the wake of the virtual event revolution in NYC. As we work, play, and connect at our own pace, we can engage with exciting new ideas and missions at a quicker rate. 

Change will always bring highs, lows, and silver linings. The pandemic-inflicted culture of NYC may have slowed, stopped, and forever changed, but it’s preparing for a comeback like none other. One thing NYC always gets right is the will to press on. To take a challenge and use it as an opportunity to make something new, to make something better. The future of virtual events in NYC is bright, and we’re all here for it.

COVID’s Unlikely Contribution to NYC’s Tech Sector

COVID’s Unlikely Contribution to NYC’s Tech Sector

After New York City found itself chief among America’s regions hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, many predicted a painful future for the Big Apple. Every moving truck, it seemed, was an ominous portent for the city of 8 million-plus. If these stories were to be believed, the days of austerity, social decay, and FORD TO CITY: DROP DEAD were looming just around the corner of 42nd and Broadway.

Now, over a year after the pandemic’s outset, New York is proving doubters wrong yet again. As restaurants, theaters, baseball stadiums and more inch closer to business as usual, NYC’s business sector is witnessing some surprising outcomes of its own. Predictions of commercial doom have given way to a technological boom, and even the titans of Silicon Valley are migrating eastward when doing business in 2021.

Long Time Coming

Of course, this movement didn’t just start today. New York’s pre-pandemic rejection of a gargantuan Amazon campus drew thousands of headlines in 2019, but less reported-upon at the time was the tech megalith’s subsequent increase of office space in the area. It seems there were few hard feelings as Bezos’ megacompany leased 359,000 new square feet in Midtown Manhattan, enough to place 2,000 new jobs in the heart of the city.

Facebook, Google, and Apple (the rest of the “Big 4” tech titans) have all also increased their NYC footprint in the last few years, building out a presence in the cultural capital of the country that’s been impossible to ignore. But it’s not only these major movers that are driving the city’s tech importance.

As tech positions occupied the largest segment of job listings in the city, these open jobs were offered in a diverse number of industries, some well outside the purview of Amazon and its prominent peers. Startups, the engines of tech innovation, are on the rise in the city as well: one estimate places the worth of NYC’s startup ecosystem at $147 billion, with new valuations and acquisitions happening daily.

A Few Reasons

So, why has NYC so quickly been saved from the brink of disaster? Journalistic exaggerations aside, this is a logical outcome of a few different factors. Maybe most importantly is in the DNA of the city itself. The existing baseline of talent, money, and a ravenous appetite for growth has kept New York City an international destination for well over a century, so it’s not the biggest surprise that the national economy’s most prominent growth sector has found a welcoming home here.

There’s also the fact that tech is on the rise everywhere, so it stands to grow more in the biggest commercial centers. From the Garment District to Wall Street, it’s hard to find a business of any size that hasn’t expanded its tech presence since the outset of COVID. The fact that there was already a large business community here meant that as more companies found themselves in need of software developers, engineers, and other tech-savvy positions, they weren’t eager to move cross-country in order to do so.

Another factor is the nature of the products on offer. While it’s true that COVID shifted many in NYC to at-home work and left their offices empty, this phenomenon certainly wasn’t limited to Manhattan careerists. As people nationwide relied more closely on tech tools to conduct their professional and personal lives in the midst of social distancing, the companies that make those tools were able to grow accordingly. With New York’s cultural clout and gargantuan talent pool, it was only natural that such growth would find solid footing here.

Looking Forward

There’s reason to be optimistic about the future, too. The city-run Economic Development Corporation, in partnership with coding education giant Fullstack Academy, is offering free immersive educational programs for New Yorkers looking to ride this wave to a lucrative career. With a special focus on recruiting from communities underrepresented in Silicon Valley, the program offers a full course of training along with job placement in NYC’s tech sphere. 

Groups like NYC Tech Talent Pipeline are also doing the work to ensure low-income and minority New Yorkers won’t miss out on this atmosphere of opportunity as well. It’s no exaggeration to say that the web developers of tomorrow’s NYC are being fostered not only in top colleges, but blue-collar neighborhoods in The Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and beyond.

While COVID certainly left a lasting mark on NYC, this city has proven time and again that it can overcome almost any challenge — not only to make it through, but to create a brighter future. For a population that’s weathered change for well over 300 years, it’ll take more than a pandemic to keep New York from the forefront of business innovation.

The NYC Marathon is Back: How Has it Changed?

The NYC Marathon is Back: How Has it Changed?

Last year, the lights of Broadway went dark, renowned museums shut their doors, and perhaps most visibly, 55,000 of the world’s top distance runners were absent from the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge on the first Sunday of November. For just the second time in its 50+ year history, the New York City Marathon was canceled.

Now, as the COVID-19 pandemic gradually stabilizes and NYC vaccination goals are reached, the places and events that make New York a world capital are slowly returning to their prior glory, and that, of course, includes the city’s most famous road race.

The 2021 New York City Marathon is on schedule to bring cheering crowds, world-class athleticism, and inspiring determination back to the streets of all five boroughs. While the course will remain the same, some new rules and regulations will be in place to assure that safety remains at the front of the pack.

For one, all runners will show proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID test. Just as with international travel, this globally-renowned event will require a similar level of precaution. Non-vaccinated runners will be expected to wear masks per CDC advisory, but that may change between now and the race’s November 7 date.

Another major change is that the field has been reduced to 33,000 runners — or 60% of the usual contingent. Start times will be staggered to allow for better spacing as competitors make their way to the finish line, also. As usual, elite runners will start at the lead, so expect even more distance than usual between them and the next tier of racers.

Administrative changes to reduce exposure are in place off the track, as well. Runners will be encouraged to check their belongings a day in advance, rather than on the morning of the race. New protocols at the Central Park finish line, where runners meet with friends and family and a large crowd typically forms, are expected to be announced in the lead-up to November.

Officials have yet to announce any changes in regard to spectators allowed. Although crowds have returned to near-capacity at ticketed events like baseball games and outdoor concerts, the massing of people around the race’s barriers will prove a bit trickier to manage. 

Perhaps the most similar scenario thus far, July’s “Hometown Heroes” parade for first responders in Lower Manhattan, saw no restrictions on a crowd the city estimated at around 100,000. There’s good reason to hope that with further vaccinations and fewer COVID cases come November, the 3 million-plus marathon crowd will be back in full form.

Potential participants at elevated risk or those who could not receive a vaccine can still take part without trekking to Staten Island. The 2021 Virtual New York City Marathon offers a chance for marathoners to test their times against the world’s best while running any 26.2-mile route they feel comfortable on. Last year, the GPS-tracked race allowed entrants from every corner of the globe to complete a marathon-length run in their hometowns or similarly safe environs, and over 14,000 took part. It’s certainly not the same as charging down the stretch through Central Park, but for those at risk, it’s the next best way to achieve this goal.

Despite some structural changes, this year’s event promises to be a return to normalcy for New Yorkers and the country as a whole. As the centerpiece of marathon season and a cherished annual tradition, the 2021 edition of the New York City Marathon is not just a race, but a major step toward leaving the COVID-19 pandemic behind.

What Does a Post-Pandemic Future Look Like for NYC?

What Does a Post-Pandemic Future Look Like for NYC?

Near the start of the pandemic and the associated stay-at-home orders, images of vacant New York City streets flooded news broadcasts and social media, solidifying the tangible impact of these uncertain times. As more individuals worldwide gain access to COVID-19 vaccinations and the global economic stutters back to life, the lights of NYC are flickering on once more, beckoning tourists and locals alike to return.

However, the pandemic’s impact cannot be ignored, and what we recognize as the “new normal” may change how we see the Big Apple. From the recovery of the local economy to the slow but steady growth of the real estate industry, New York City’s path beyond the pandemic may not be clear, but it is promising. Even with the uncertainty surrounding a post-pandemic New York, change can be productive, and while the pandemic presented new challenges, the future of a post-pandemic NYC looks bright.

The Return of Business and a Renewed Economy

With more businesses opening up, mask mandates lifting, and vaccination numbers rising with each passing day, the return of business to NYC suggests a promising path toward a strong renewed economy. The guarantee of tourists and locals returning to the city has contributed to a rise in business, spreading from property brokers to restaurant owners and more.

Adjusting to pandemic-related restrictions proved to be a productive challenge for many businesses, especially those in the food industry; many restaurants were able to establish outdoor seating areas to promote safe social distancing standards while maintaining business, and these features look like they are here to stay, changing the atmosphere of the city at least for the summer.

The Revival of Broadway and a Surge of Tourism

For many, Broadway is a symbol of New York City, and when the theater went dark last year, it posed a grim message, suggesting surrender or defeat. However, it is believed that Broadway, as well as Radio City Music Hall, will finally reopen later this year, presenting an opportunity for hope, unity, and relief. In order to survive beyond the pandemic, however, Broadway will need to fill its seats, limiting the potential for social distancing within the theater and necessitating other safety measures in exchange. Still, the return of Broadway has caused excitement and anticipation among New York residents, hopeful tourists, and theatre lovers alike, and its imminent revival will play a crucial role in revitalizing the city’s tourism industry.

One of the hardest-hit industries during the pandemic has been that of hospitality; with travel restrictions and the shuttering of main attractions, hotels have suffered immensely over the last year and a half. Many hotel owners were forced to close some of their buildings or severely restrict occupancy limits, but as an increase of tourism looms on the horizon, the role of hotels will be a critical one. During the pandemic, hotel owners and staff have worked to make changes to better benefit the health, safety, and comfort of employees and guests alike, and NYC tourists will encounter these changes when they book their stays. The changes made are likely to stay beyond the pandemic, as well, forever altering the standards of hospitality. Ultimately, hotel owners hope to demonstrate to guests that they are safe and valued when staying with them, and they hope that this message helps revitalize the hospitality industry through consistent action that proves their point.

The health of the tourism industry is largely dependent on the recovery of local business and the lifting of international travel restrictions, but for now, efforts to promote higher standards of cleanliness and comfort are set to attract tourists as they trickle back into the city.

The Rebound of Commercial and Residential Real Estate

Early on in the pandemic, many NYC residents chose to leave the city in favor of being closer to family or securing more affordable homes or apartments. As the economy continues to recover in the gradual wake of the pandemic, apartment and luxury home sales have increased significantly, at times surpassing pre-COVID levels, suggesting a promising return of residents and tourists alike.

Since the first quarter, for example, apartments listed at the $5 million or higher price point have witnessed an 85% increase in closings, marking an impressive positive upswing in business for the real estate industry. Increased vaccination and the widespread reopening of businesses has improved consumer confidence; coupled with the impending promise of New York tax changes as well as discussions surrounding raised taxes on the wealthy, the positive shifts in society and the economy have contributed to a renewed culture of spending, especially in NYC real estate markets.

The commercial real estate sector is expected to have the most sluggish recovery due to a high number of workers remaining remote for the foreseeable future. Prior to the pandemic, multi-use buildings had increased in popularity to improve income streams for building owners, reduce the risk of financial loss when tenants leave, and make better use of facilities that may otherwise be vacant at times. This trend will likely continue as companies determine if renting entire spaces is valuable to their work and their workforces.

Similarly, it is entirely possible that spaces that were previously used as office or co-working spaces may shift their function; repurposing commercial spaces to satisfy the renewed demand for entertainment, food, and nightlife may be a strong likelihood as landlords seek innovative tenants to fill their buildings. Instead of housing corporate offices, some spaces may instead host party seekers and up to 150,000 nightlife workers who lost their jobs during the pandemic.

While the future of New York City may be in flux, the potential for revitalization and success is immense. The city has been forever changed by the pandemic, but as a cornerstone of American culture and a symbol of prosperity and excitement, NYC is far from dead. Consider this a rebirth. What the future holds for NYC may look unlike anything we’ve seen before, but we can be certain that the city will recover and thrive again.

The Return of NYC’s Live Music Scene

The Return of NYC’s Live Music Scene

A patient New York City, yearning to feel the pulse of live music after a quiet 15 months, is ready for the return of concerts — and Foo Fighters, like hundreds of musical acts, promised quite a show this summer.

“We’ve been waiting for this day for over a year,” the band said in a statement announcing its recent June 20th concert at Madison Square Garden, “and Madison Square Garden is going to feel that HARD.”

Live music is back in New York, and the city plans a full-throated blast of rock, hip hop, pop, country, folk, blues, jazz, soul, country, and classical music this summer. From the biggest arenas to the smallest clubs — and even in subway stations again — the city is turning up the volume. 

So what should you know about getting in on the act? Here are the details. 

Vaccination

Many shows and concerts, particularly those in large venues, will require proof of vaccination for COVID-19. For instance, Springsteen on Broadway begins its revival on June 26 at the St. James Theater, where guests must be fully vaccinated to attend. The venue defines that as being 14 days removed from the second shot of a two-dose vaccine or 14 days after receiving a single-dose vaccine. Tickets are available via SeatGeek.

Likewise, Foo Fighters’ concert at MSG (the venue’s first full-capacity show since March 2020) required guests to show proof of vaccination. Children under 16 who were not vaccinated could attend if they provided proof of a negative COVID-19 test and were accompanied by a vaccinated adult.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently announced that New York state would lift most of its COVID restrictions once 70 percent of the adult population has received its first vaccination dose. Businesses can continue to require proof of vaccination, masks, and distancing in their establishments if they choose. So whatever show you plan to attend, make sure to check the venue’s particular requirements.

“The lifting of our COVID restrictions is a sign of how hard New Yorkers have worked to contain the spread of the virus and protect their communities,” Gov. Cuomo said in a statement.

Returning Venues

New York is a living soundstage for all kinds of music, and they’re all coming back. Where to begin with so many choices? Here’s a start.

TimeOut New York has a comprehensive listing of venues and shows, though check with specific locations for potential changes. Remember, the scene still is fluid, and schedules are bound to shift. NYC.com, NYCgo, and DoNYC have good show calendars as well.

SummerStage kicks off a capacity-controlled series of shows in mid-June, a welcome restoration of live music to parks across the city. From Central Park to Coney Island, outdoor venues will bounce to a variety of beats. Central Park shows include George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic, The Originals, the Met Opera Summer Recital, and Gloria Gaynor at the Coney Island Amphitheater.

Lincoln Center has launched the Restart Stages, ten outdoor spaces “to help kickstart the performing arts sector and New York City’s revival.” The stages offer performance and rehearsal space to a variety of artists, and free tickets are available for performances. 

Carnegie Hall has announced its 2021-22 season, which begins with shows in late June, and Irving Plaza reopens with several shows in August. In addition, Radio City Music Hall is gearing for a fall concert schedule.

For those in search of a fresh place to see a show, Brooklyn Made, a new 500-seat venue in Bushwick, opens its doors in September.

The Future of Virtual Performances

Performers around the world spent the past year producing online shows to compensate for the lack of in-person opportunities. This shouldn’t go away.

Livestreams brought more acts and more diversity of music to more people during the pandemic. Artists say they want to continue these shows, and tech companies and music labels have invested heavily in these formats.

We met so many vibrant artists via Instagram, Zoom, and Twitch over the past year. We should continue supporting them in that space.

“People were literally relying on this for their health. And honestly, so were we,” artist Tucker Halpern told Time Magazine. “It was definitely counterintuitive that we felt more connected to people not actually being with them.” 

Ringing in NYC’s Return

Perhaps the city’s biggest summer music event is the “mega-concert” scheduled for Aug. 21 in Central Park. Mayor Bill de Blasio promised a “classic, iconic, massive” event that would celebrate New York’s “comeback.”

Performers for the show have yet to be announced, but de Blasio said that legendary record producer Clive Davis would produce the show, which promises to be epic.

“I said, ‘I need the biggest, most extraordinary all-star lineup you can put together, heavy on New York artists,’” de Blasio said at a news conference. “[Davis] said, ‘I’m on it. I’m going to make it happen.’ So, in August, get ready for an unforgettable week, a once in a lifetime concert and a moment that really says New York City’s back.”