The New York Times has a story about how retailers seem to be abandoning New York City in the wake of the pandemic.
Here's how the paper frames the story:
"Even as the city has contained the virus and slowly reopens, there are ominous signs that some national brands are starting to abandon New York. The city is home to many flagship stores, chains and high-profile restaurants that tolerated astronomical rents and other costs because of New York’s global cachet and the reliable onslaught of tourists and commuters.
"But New York today looks nothing like it did just a few months ago.
"In Manhattan’s major retail corridors, from SoHo to Fifth Avenue to Madison Avenue, once packed sidewalks are now nearly empty. A fraction of the usual army of office workers goes into work every day, and many wealthy residents have left the city for second homes."
The Times writes that "in the heart of Manhattan, national chains including J.C. Penney, Kate Spade, Subway and Le Pain Quotidien have shuttered branches for good. Many other large brands, like Victoria’s Secret and the Gap, have their kept high-profile locations closed in Manhattan, while reopening in other states."
The story goes on: "Some popular chains, like Shake Shack and Chipotle, report that their stores in New York were performing worse than others elsewhere, investment analysts said. A few dozen Subway locations have closed in New York City in recent months … A Gap Store near Rockefeller Center has stayed closed and has not paid its $264,000 monthly rent. Two T.G.I. Friday’s in prime locations, one near Rockefeller Center and another in Times Square, have remained closed while its restaurants elsewhere in the country have reopened."
Part of the problem is rent - the high costs of operating in Manhattan have made reopening prohibitive.
Michael Weinstein, CEO of Ark Restaurants, which owns Bryant Park Grill & Cafe and 19 other restaurants, tells the Times that he will never open another restaurant in New York: "“There’s no reason to do business in New York. I can do the same volume in Florida in the same square feet as I would have in New York, with my expenses being much less. The idea was that branding and locations were important, but the expense of being in this city has overtaken the marketing group that says you have to be there.”
- KC's View:
New York City has been counted out before, and always has managed to come back. No reason to think it cannot rise again, though this may be a longer process than in the past.
It isn't a new observation, but coming out of the pandemic isn't going to be like flipping a switch, much as some might like it to be. It will be a slow emergence, and it will take time for a lot of people to gain confidence about re-engaging with the world.
That said, as someone who still has not been to a restaurant since March 1, I'm looking forward to getting back to New York … to going to the theater … catching a Mets game at Citi Field … and taking Mrs. Content Guy out to dinner there. It's just going to be awhile.