On the second Saturday in March, the owners of Jaretti, a Jewish-American luncheon in Brooklyn, finalized the final phase of the makeover of their old restaurant. He hired a new sous chef, an up-and-comer, who landed hours before on a one-way flight from Detroit.
However, dinertime, the restaurant was ineffective.
After spreading quietly for weeks, coronaviruses had infected hundreds of people in New York and put a terrible emptiness inside the city and restaurants that planned to launch a new menu. Instead, by the end of dinner service on that Sunday, the owners pulled over all 25 employees and told them that they were being let go.
Seven months later, Gerty still standing, If barely, the battered symbol of an industry ruined by a widespread recession. Gertie is a shell of her former self – the tables in the dark dining room are pushed aside, the espresso machine is turned off, a case once full of baked goods gathers dust – as do the handful of remaining employees Around the base of people to reinforce themselves in about a week.
The restaurant, located in Williamsburg, is now trying to sustain it collectively by many undertakings: morning soup, preparing food for the hungry; An outdoor restaurant three nights a week; And on Thursday the vote-out operation, with a phone bank on the courtyard and via postcard dinner, is asked to send unspecified voters.
A year ago, Gertie earned about $ 30,000 per week, packing dozens of diners at a time inside her shiny, sinister dining room. On the worst days of the epidemic, it sold $ 50 worth of coffee and pastries on some mornings, not enough to give to the barista and baker. Sales gradually climbed to around $ 1,000 a day in late summer.
Owners worry about what the cold weather will bring.
The general manager and co-owner, 33-year-old Flip Biedelman, said, “I feel like we’ve opened six restaurants in the last seven months. Outside the canvas and after spreading them on the sidewalk.” It’s just emotionally and physically quite Tax. “
“How long can this go on?” He added.
The epidemic has done almost no business in New York. Some have flourished, such as a liquor store. But no industry has closed like restaurants and bars, a multi-dollar-dollar life-flow that gives the city its vibrancy and diversity, employing hundreds of thousands of people, including many migrants, and every year Attracts millions of tourists.
From Michelin-starred fine dining to hole-in-the-wall restaurants, the industry brings in about $ 46 billion annually in sales and, according to the state, pays employees about $ 10 billion in wages.
Today, it is a major achievement for a restaurant to be open. There is no definite number of how many restaurants have gone out of business, but the number is in the thousands.
At the height of the epidemic last spring, more than 200,000 restaurant workers were out of work, according to the state controller. Some have been resumed, but only a few hours are working. The restaurants are open for indoor dining, but are at a 25 percent capacity limit.
By some estimates, continued destruction Can finally top Up to half of the city’s 24,000 restaurants.
The economics of operating a restaurant in New York were never favorable, but the epidemic highlighted how precarious the business was. Restaurants, even those living away from Manhattan’s upscale pretics, can pay more than thousands of dollars a year in rent and tens of thousands of dollars on other bills, including insurance policies that have provided no assistance during the epidemic .
Since the epidemic, Gertie’s landlord has cut its base rent by 50 percent, up to $ 5,000 a month, and offered to extend the rebate, including Gertie’s percentage of sales for another 16 months. But there is a separate increase in the payment of rent. Nate Adler, who introduced Gerty with Mr. Biedelmann, accepted the offer despite concerns that the business would not improve for months.
Mr. Adler, 31, said, “These restaurants were built to comfort people, to comfort people.” Every restaurant has become a shell of a restaurant, as if nothing is noticeable inside. Nothing is being used the way it is intended to be used or the way it was initially intended, and it’s just a hard pill to swallow. “
Gertie is also defrauding most of his employees. 9 of its 25 workers are back, with some even collecting unemployment benefits because they work so few hours. Many former employees refused to return, citing health concerns, while others moved to another state and started a new job.
In February 2019, Jaretti opened at a quiet intersection at the corner of Marty Avenue and Grand Street, offering updated Jewish-American food. Mr. Adler named Gertie, named for her maternity, offering a mix of counter service and bakery, deli, and all-day hangouts, after a Los Angeles restaurant.
Mr. Adler and Mr. Biedelmann have extensive backgrounds in some of the city’s most prestigious restaurant groups. Worked for mr adler Union Square Hospitality Group, The food service empire was owned by Danny Meyer, where Mr. Biedelman also worked. They also worked together in another restaurant started by Mr. Adler, HuertasIn Manhattan.
However, Gertie had expected the owners not to go that way. Breakfast, lunch and weekend brunch did well, selling dishes such as smoked whitefish salad, Reuben sandwiches with sauerkraut, and smoked salmon with cream cheese on bialis.
But the dinner service, which was star-like lamb with horseshoe sauce, whole fish with tartar sauce and whole rotisserie duck, never attracted a strong crowd.
The owners worked with the concept. They converted the cellar into an event space. He booked groups with DJs and visited chefs for pop-up events. Then in February, he hired a new executive chef, Mike Cain, 35, who worked at a Mediterranean restaurant on the Brooklyn waterway.
But the virus kept his plan. In the first weekend of March, more than 300 people ate gerty for brunch on both days. The following weekend, only a few dozen people showed up each day.
“I could see people around me when people weren’t coming in,” said 27-year-old Eleanor Bellamy, a former server.
March 15, Sunday, The city ordered all bars and restaurants Excludes delivery and pickup. Gertie had no delivery or takeout operation. After her shift that night, Ms. Bellamy opened an email from the restaurant announcing that most of the employees had been let go.
Like many, Ms. Bellamy initially believed that the disruption would be temporary and decided to move to her hometown of NC, Durham. He packed Prakash – some pants and a shirt in a small bag.
In August, Ms. Bellamy returned to the city – collecting all her belongings for a permanent move to North Carolina, where she got a job at a clothing and wallpaper company.
“I said Bellamy,” I lived here longer and felt like I had started a whole new life. “It was the right choice for me.”
Joveni Luna’s phone was lit with the same email that Ms. Bellamy received. Just six days ago, Gertie’s porter, Mr. Luna, was laid off from a part-time server position at another restaurant.
“In the hospitality industry, it’s not always the best job, but it’s something that always feels very safe in New York,” said Mr. Luna, 31, who is working on Gertie again, but collecting unemployment benefits Doing because he is doing very little work.
That night, Mr. Caine was rested at Sparrow Tavern, a favorite bar near his home in Astoria, Queens, as well as fellow chefs facing the same frightening future.
“It was kind of cool seeing each other and cracking a little jokes,” Mr. Caine said.
The following week, Mr. Caine, Mr. Adler, and Mr. Biedelmann made a new plan. Gertie began offering takeout and delivery, and the two partners looked for nonprofit opportunities to use the restaurant to help frontline workers.
Delivery and takeout proved to be a dead end. There were only a handful of orders, and it was difficult to know how much food to keep in stock without spoiling.
“We needed to double-down on the nonprofit stuff, or we needed to say, ‘Screw it, we’re out,'” said Mr. Adler, using four-letters.
Mr. Adler and his partner, Mr. Biedelman, became involved with the LEE initiative, a foundation in Louisville, Ky., Which became a restaurant-relief effort in the early days of the epidemic. With the help of the Foundation, four employees were hired in Gertie’s kitchen, as employees delivered hundreds of boxed meals a day.
The meal program ended after only a few weeks. Employees were tired and worried that they were at risk of catching the virus. The restaurant closed for at least two weeks.
“Our lives were essentially: get up, worry about Kovid and go to work and feed all the people who are worried about Kovid, come home, eat dinner and repeat,” Mr. Adler said.
Then in May the restaurant partnered with City Harvest, a nonprofit that distributes food to the hungry, and the group Rethink Food at another meal event. Garty provides funding for Rethink Food, $ 5 per meal for food, and City Harvest to serve food four days a week.
In July, the restaurant expanded outside for outdoor dining and spent thousands of dollars building decks for tables and chairs. But the sale never really took off – around $ 300 a day at its height, though a couple of weekends have brought in up to $ 5,000.
Although the restaurant was allowed to bring diners back to the end of September at a 25 percent capacity, Gertie has not again worried inside the house as both diners and employees may be ill.
For now, Gertie is trying to get on with his various initiatives.
Recently one morning, two cooks barged into a small kitchen in the basement of a restaurant preparing food for a meal. Baked new potato pieces were piled high in a plastic bin, while dozens of roasted pork piled nearby, waiting for individual meals to be sliced.
That afternoon, crews began preparing for another outdoor event, getting together politically on Thursday nights, drumming up business and promoting democratic candidates.
The crew tasted the dishes on the nighttime menu: Lemongrass Chicken over Scallion Rice and Chicken Ban-mi prepared by Di Vien, a Vietnamese restaurant. Jaretti brings in a guest chef on Thursday to help her and build her excitement for the night’s event.
“It’s eye-opening when you’ve spent so much time building a place and you want to see it and you always want to leave a place that you found it in,” Mr. “I don’t know if it’s possible in this situation.”