Brooklyn set to overtake Manhattan as the city’s restaurant capital

The city’s restaurants reopened at 100% capacity on Wednesday, raising the hopes of owners of a plate full of activity – including those bravely opening new establishments.

THE CITY looked at new permit data provided by the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene dating back to 2017. The numbers show Brooklyn is where the action is taking place, while the star of Manhattan is fading.

From January to mid-April of this year, 832 new restaurants received operating permits from the health department.

Typically, nearly 40% of new restaurants have opened in Manhattan. But this year, that share fell to 32%. Meanwhile, Brooklyn now rivals Manhattan, accounting for 30% of new restaurants.

The shares of other boroughs remained largely unchanged: a quarter of all new restaurants opened this year in Queens, while the Bronx was home to 9% of newcomers and Staten Island 4%.

An “ anti-COVID ” restaurant

Kim Meyer is among the entrepreneurs who are overcoming the economic and health uncertainties of COVID to open new food establishments in New York after the closure of thousands of people.

She ran a pop-up food stand at a bar in Brooklyn’s Prospect Heights before venturing out to find her own space in the midst of the pandemic last summer.

After months of research, Meyer found a location in Cobble Hill, along the famous foodie street of Smith Street. With several storefronts now empty, she said she got lucky and struck a deal with a local owner.

This was not possible before the pandemic, she said, when landlords “had no real incentive to let small businesses try to open with lower rents.”

Meyer, however, designed his “gourmet hot-pocket” restaurant – Kimpanadas – to be take out only.

“I created this business this way because I want it to be COVID-proof,” Meyer said, “or whatever comes after that.”

Thousands closed

The signs of life come in an industry still reeling from the pandemic, even as take-out and delivery has proven to be a lifeline for some establishments, backed by government aid and rent relief.

The number of new restaurants opened so far this year is still down 43% from the same period in 2019, and employment in the sector is fair 40% of its pre-pandemic level, according to the Federal Reserve.

More than 4,500 restaurants in the city have closed permanently since last March, according to Estimates from the New York Restaurant Association.

“Last year was the only year that the restaurant industry has actually shrunk in size in the past 100 years,” said Haragopal Parsa, professor of hospitality management at the University of Denver. “COVID is worse than World War II.”

Parsa said the pandemic will prompt the industry to reassess its business models, including determining how Wait to workers and where to open restaurants.

People eat outside a restaurant in Fort Greene, Brooklyn.
Ben Fractenberg / THE CITY

Eat near the house

Residential neighborhoods prove particularly attractive Locations.

Take 11231 into the Brooklyn restaurant, which sets the scene for Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, and Red Hook. Eleven new restaurants have received permits there so far this year – up from a dozen combined for the first four months of 2019 and 2020.

Andrew Rigie, executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance, said the migration of restaurants to residential neighborhoods followed demand.

“A lot of people live and work in residential neighborhoods at home, which certainly helps restaurants in those communities,” Rigie said.

About 40% of new restaurants have opened in pre-COVID residential neighborhoods. This year, that figure has risen to 47%.

Opening restaurants in residential areas can also help attract workers, allowing shorter trips at a time when some restaurants are struggling to find employees.

Parsa said employees take work that often pays a minimum of $ 15 an hour

salary “prefers to find a job close to home.”

Meyer acknowledges that the once “saturated” Smith Street restaurant scene has been criticized by pandemic closures and customer departures from the area.

“This neighborhood has gone from jumping to death,” she said.

It is the first business to reopen on its side of the block, next to the once bustling but now closed Angry Wade bar, one of the many victims of the pandemic.

But she says Smith Street is ready for a culinary comeback.

“My neighbors across the street came to say thank you for opening,” she said. “Because it just helps the whole gang.”

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