Joe Allen is planning to reopen on Oct. 15 following the announcement that New York City will allow indoor dining later this month.
Restaurants are allowed to reopen at 25% capacity for indoor dining beginning Sept. 30, with temperature checks and mask requirements for diners. While the announcement allows some theater district restaurants to open for the first time since mid-March, the limited capacity puts a strain on their financial resources.
With the capacity requirements, Joe Allen will be able to serve 31 diners at a time, according to Julie Lumia, co-owner of the restaurant. Because of the limited dining numbers, as well as the rehiring of 18 employees (compared to the typical 95 to 100) and other fixed costs, the restaurant will likely lose money upon reopening.
“Those are just not very good odds, but we want to get back in the game,” Lumia said. “It’s just that we’ll have to do it in a very small way to see how the chips fall.”
Lumia is using Joe Allen as a trial run and then will reopen her other theater district businesses, Bar Centrale and Orso, depending on its outcome. She fears that all three will “limp along” until a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available.
Sean Ricketts, co-owner of Sardi’s, said he is still calculating the numbers on whether reopening the business will outweigh the costs.
The other challenge for the theater district restaurants is the absence of their primary clientele, tourists and Broadway theatergoers. Lumia is looking to Joe Allen’s slate of neighborhood customers to fill that void.
“We are going to be relying on some of those regulars,” Lumia said.