As COVID-19 mandates have dropped, the city's nightlife scene may be turning around.
Business owners say they’re seeing more customers and higher-than-normal check averages per night from patrons, despite the fact that the city's COVID-19 alert level has risen from medium to high, with health officials recommending people wear masks indoors.
“We were convinced here that we were doing our numbers wrong, because all of a sudden, we’re having a much higher check average,” said David Rabin, co-owner of The Skylark.
What You Need To Know
- Some business owners say COVID-19 is no longer their top concern, with public safety and dirty streets having moved to the forefront
- Businesses owners say not only are there more customers coming out, but there are higher-than-normal check averages per night from patrons
- Patrons say they're still concerned about catching the virus, but on a recent evening, almost no one was wearing a mask
The clientele of The Skylark, who range in age from 30 to 65, said they are still concerned about catching the virus, but almost no one was wearing a mask on a recent visit.
“I want to live life again,” patron Anthony Rao said. Rao said he was out for the first time in two years celebrating a friend’s 50th birthday.
“There could be another wave around the corner, so I feel people are really trying to get their good time in right now,” Rabin said.
From cocktails for professionals in Midtown to house music for club kids downtown, Susanne Bartsch is known as the "Queen of New York Nightlife." She's hosted colorful parties for decades. She recently kicked off another year of her weekly “On Top” party in the Meatpacking District.
“People who don’t want to go out because they feel uncomfortable, they should stay home," Bartsch said. "You need to do what works for you."
Instead of turning a profit, Bartsch said the party is about fostering community. Le Bain, the rooftop bar at The Standard, was packed on a Tuesday night, with a mostly 20-something crowd, and, again, with no one wearing a mask.
“People have the shot. We’ve all been boosted," Bartsch said. "We’ve all done what we’ve had to do."
The city said before the pandemic, nightlife generated about $35 billion in sales per year, supporting almost 300,000 jobs with roughly $700 million in tax revenue.
“New York nightlife isn’t just a luxury. What the pandemic demonstrated was that it’s a necessity,” said Ariel Palitz, the senior executive director of the city's Office of Nightlife.
“We’re not at pre-pandemic levels at the moment,” Palitz said. “Even the most successful businesses have challenges, but the trajectory that I’m hearing overall is that people are very eager to get out.”
Business owners like Nebula owner Yang Gao said COVID-19 is no longer their biggest fear. Gao said public safety and dirty streets have moved to the forefront of his concerns.
“My biggest fear is that people will give up on New York,” Gao said.
Despite challenges, Harlem Hops owner Kim Harris said she’s keeping her spirits up.
“I’m hopeful. I’m always hopeful. I try not to be fearful of anything,” Harris said.
With their recent success, many of the business owners said it’s the community’s support which has kept them afloat.