With increased vaccinations and lower virus cases, restrictions are being slowly lifted. All cities across the country are working to safely reopen and ease restrictions such as limited capacity or curfews.
Restaurants, bars, and pubs have started full reopenings, although in some cases without indoor service. JPMorgan analysts noted that restaurant seating capacity in major locations ranges from 25% in California to 50% in New York City, Pennsylvania, and Illinois. Florida and Texas “are now largely back to previous capacity.” According to market experts, the Fourth of July will symbolize the reopening of America, allowing restaurants to capitalize on the pent-up desire to dine out limited by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In late May, Massachusetts further reduced restrictions and allowed restaurants to reopen without capacity limits. In Waltham, Erin Barnicle, general manager of Tempo, said that guests at her restaurant were “elated to be out and getting back to ‘normal’.” “There is a new sense of freedom,” she said. “People are reconnecting again, sitting at the bar and even at tables and talking to other guests around them. It’s amazing.”
Some restaurants prefer to restart more gradually, maintaining slight restrictions and keep seats as they were set up during the pandemic.
Jay Spencer, an owner of French Press Bakery & Cafe in Needham, said: “We still do not have indoor seating, but we have reconfigured our indoor flow and are allowing guests to use a mobile ordering station instead of standing in one line. Outdoor dining has been a game-changer for us.”
In Chicago, which was initially supposed to wait until July for full reopening, restaurants and bars will reopen at full capacity on Friday, June 11, aligned with the beginning of the last phase of the recovery plan, scheduled for the whole state. There will be no restrictions, but each business will be able to choose its own post-pandemic policy and rules.
Good news for Michigan, starting from this week, restaurants and bars are allowed to have 50% indoor capacity, full outdoor capacity, and authorization to stay open after 11 pm, followed by full reopening on July 1.
“In July, the late-night sales will be a lot more apparent because then we will be at 100% capacity. Then we can bring back karaoke and some of the late-night activities that we were doing before,” said Michael Krueger, owner and general manager of Crunchy’s in East Lansing, which has a capacity of 108 people.
The outlook is optimistic, though restaurant and bar owners will still face challenges: difficulty finding staff and ongoing restrictions on the use of indoor spaces.
Staffing shortages could have consequences in meeting the “pent-up” demand for dining out. Justin Winslow, president and CEO of the Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association, says: “We have all these opportunities, but at the same time, there’s no workforce.” According to Winslow, dining demand will be higher than in 2019, and it is expected to be a busy summer for all businesses that are working hard to recover.
New York City is now celebrating a 100% reopening of its restaurants, bars, and nightclubs, with no more curfew for indoor dining. The city will slowly regain its pace and its status as the “city that never sleeps.” And as the temperature rises, people will be able to enjoy this newfound freedom and go out, eat and drink at any time.
“The lifting of the curfew is critically important. We’re a 24-7 city, so there are tons of people that would still be out eating and drinking after midnight,” said Andrew Rigie, executive director of NYC Hospitality Alliance. The alliance advocates for restaurants and nightlife in New York City.
We analyzed AirSage Destinations data for Gigino at Wagner Park to confirm the growing pent-up demand. Gigino is an Italian restaurant located in the heart of Lower Manhattan, in the Tribeca District (New York). The venue has a central and strategic position in Wagner Park, within Battery Park, facing the river and offers spectacular views of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
Specifically for this study, we compared the last weekend in April 2019 to that in 2021 to observe changes in the origins of restaurant visitors. The map illustrates the counties from which Gigino guests arrived at the restaurant during the study period.
The map on the left indicates that on April 26-28, 2019, visitors came primarily from
● New York (NY), 710 unique visitors
● Bergen (NJ), 180 unique visitors
● Suffolk (NY), 80 unique visitors
However, over the weekend of April 23-25, 2021, there was a higher flow of visitors that came from the following counties:
● New York (NY), 825 unique visitors
● Bronx (NY), 130 unique visitors
● Suffolk (NY), 80 unique visitors
● Kings (NY) and Middlesex, (NJ), 60 unique visitors
● Richmond (NY), Bergen (NJ), Fairfield (CT), and Morris (NJ), 40 unique visitors each
AirSage insights clearly indicate the growth in restaurant visitation and the increased number of visitors from diverse places.
Restaurants, pubs, and bars, as well as hotels and travel agencies, have certainly been heavily affected by the pandemic. These reopenings do not mean an immediate return to normal, as it will take time and a gradual recovery to return to pre-pandemic levels. However, there is no doubt they are an optimistic sign of the outlook for the second half of 2021.