A new survey by the NYC Hospitality Alliance has revealed that 92% of more than 400 respondents couldn’t afford to pay December rent, a number that has steadily increased since the start of the pandemic.

In June, 80% of restaurants could not afford to pay rent; July 83%; August 87%; and October 88%.

Before Covid-19, New York City was home to over 25,000 restaurants, bars and nightclubs that employed 325,000 people. Thousands of eating and drinking establishments have already permanently closed as a result of the pandemic and accompanying restrictions, and the industry shed more than 140,000 jobs in the last year.

According to more than 400 respondents representing New York City’s hospitality sector, only 40% of tenants’ landlords reduced rent in relation to COVID 19; only 36% of tenants’ landlords deferred rent in relation to COVID19; and only 14% of businesses have been able to successfully renegotiate leases (61% have not, 24% are in “good faith” negotiations).

These results come after New York City’s restaurants and bars were restricted to outdoor dining during some of winter’s coldest temperatures, while restaurants outside of the five boroughs continued highly regulated indoor dining at 50% occupancy, as they’ve done safely and effectively since June.

Business owners and industry leaders insist a path to reopening at 50% occupancy is necessary to continue treading water, and that only robust and compressive federal stimulus can truly save the industry, which nationwide has lost some 110,000 restaurants and 2.5m jobs, 372,000 jobs of which were lost in December alone.

“We’re nearly a year into the public health and economic crisis that has decimated New York City’s restaurants, bars, and nightlife venues,” said Andrew Rigie, executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance. “While the reopening of highly regulated indoor dining is welcome news, we need to safely increase occupancy to 50% as soon as possible, and we urgently need robust and comprehensive financial relief from the federal government. We will continue to work with Senator and Majority Leader Schumer to ensure that the $25bn restaurant industry recovery fund is passed as part of the Biden administration’s emergency relief plan, and advocate for the enactment of the RESTAURANTS Act to save as many local eating and drinking spots and jobs as possible.”

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