NYC hot spots cut hours like crime, staff shortages eat away at business

Jennifer Gould

Big Apple restaurants are reducing their hours as they struggle with rampant crime and a chronic shortage of workers, industry insiders tell Side Dish.

Last month, top chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten made a splash by opening six restaurants and six fast-casual spots in the landmark Tin Building on the South Street Seaport. But the building and the restaurants are only open four days a week, from 12 noon to 9 pm.

Even with reduced hours and days, the Tin Building is still without the workers it needs. Recent social media ads show openings for “chefs, prep cooks, chef de partie, garde manger, butchers, bakers, pastry chefs, cake decorators and sous chefs.”

The Tin Building is not uncommon. Restaurateurs interviewed by Side Dish say shorter weeks are a response to crime and inflation to labor shortages. And New Yorkers returning to work are often only in the office two or three days a week.

“People just aren’t out that much, and late night demand isn’t always there because of the crime factor. I don’t even feel safe walking around at 2am on a Sunday night. Do you? It’s like a ‘Matrix’ experience,” says nightlife baron king Richie Romero.

The tin building of chef Jean-Georges VongerichtenChef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s tin building and its restaurants are only open four days a week. Stefano Giovannini for NY Post

Jean-Georges Vongerichten says Tin Building still doesn't have the staff it needs.Jean-Georges Vongerichten says Tin Building still doesn’t have employees it needs.Getty Images

His 11,000-square-foot club Nebula, the largest new nightclub that opened last year, is now open three nights a week — Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays — with “one-offs” on some Thursdays. The rest of the time, the club opens its doors for private events only.

Romero’s new kosher sushi omakase spot Fin and Scales, at 10 E. 8th St., is open one night a week, while its other recently opened Sushi by Bou, in Chelsea, is open five nights a week. Then there’s Zazzy’s Pizza, which has three locations. It’s still open seven days a week—until 4 a.m. Thursday through Saturday at the Lower East Side outpost, but closes its ovens at 10:30 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday.

“People have adapted to being more at home after COVID. They are in their office two to three days a week instead of five, and it is difficult to staff places. There is less demand. People don’t travel that much. They stay at home,’ Romero said.

Some new restaurants that tried to stay open seven days a week had to scale back quickly.

Richie Romero“People just aren’t out that much, and late-night demand isn’t always there because of the crime factor,” Richie Romero says.WireImage

When Roam Sporting Club launched in Queens in February, it was open seven days a week. But during the summer, the high-end sports bar near Austin Street was reduced to five days. Owner Manish Chadha tried to reopen for “Monday Night Football” this fall, but the costs were too high and “the streets in Forest Hills were quiet,” he said.

By mid-September, the restaurant was back to five nights a week after the weekday lunch service was discontinued. Chadha said he “didn’t want to fight the trend of more than quiet nights” at the start of the week. He has also tried to lure customers with coupons during off-peak hours.

Ten Hope in Williamsburg is also feeling the pressure. When launched in 2019, Ten Hope was open six days a week. Now it’s open four days a week, Thursday through Sunday, “to brace the ship and brave the coming winter,” said owner Bill Zafiros. He will also be launching a price tag — $10 menus at dinner — to bring people in.

Romero's Nebula in May.Romero’s Nebula in May. The 11,000-square-foot club is now open three nights a week. WireImage

“We are always packed on weekends. It’s just a lot more efficient to simplify things and go where the demand is, rather than keep banging my head against the wall trying to convince customers to come earlier in the week, especially during the coming winter months, said Zafiros.

Legendary cocktail artist Albert Trummer recently opened a highly stylized bar and lounge called DOM, for Domicile, in the landmark United Charities Building below Hawksmoor, a British steakhouse, at 287 Park Avenue South.

Albert Trummer in his new bar DOM.Albert Trummer in his new bar DOM.J. Messerschmidt/NY Post

It’s only open three days a week, Thursday through Saturday, due to staffing issues, and is also available for private events, said Trummer, who rose to fame for founding celeb hotspot Apotheke in Chinatown.

“I’ve lost a lot of my staff during the pandemic, and it’s hard to find people who are highly skilled and sophisticated and also willing to work the long hours in the hospitality industry,” Trummer said.

The Austrian-born mixologist brings his specialty elixirs to DOM after the sale of Apotheke, where he served up medicinal-style cocktails and pyrotechnic antics in the former opium den.

Albert Trummer“It’s hard to find people who are highly skilled and sophisticated, as well as willing to work the long hours in the hospitality industry,” Trummer says. J. Messerschmidt/NY Post

Many of the liqueurs are from his own eponymous line that uses herbs from the Austrian Alps to cure everything from colds to lackluster libidos.

As New York City enters the holiday season, he hopes to extend the hours and days of DOM, offering cocktails divided into health and beauty categories, pain relievers, stress relievers, aphrodisiacs, pharmaceuticals, stimulants, and euphoric enhancers.

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