Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Pandemic Observations from NYC

Frequent readers may recall that I have spent each of the last 35 years (except 2020!) in New York City for Thanksgiving. Yes, I have in-laws who reside on Long Island and it was especially nice to see them last week after having not done so in two years!

My quick observations about NYC during the current phase of the COVID-19 pandemic are hopeful, although I’ll admit that my trip was on the front end of the recent news about the latest Greek-letter variant, Omicron. Not being a student of the Greek language, I didn’t even know there was such a letter—one that seems destined to now become a regular part of my vocabulary, at least for a while.

Why hopeful? The streets of the NYC were teaming with people (admittedly most of them wearing masks) just like a “regular” year. The Macy’s parade was in full swing. Theatres on and off Broadway (at least the ones I was in) are also filled with energy, and live performances and restaurants are busy (in each case, once you show proof of vaccination).

Another thing I noticed was just how many new retail businesses there were. It seemed like, along with the COVID-testing tents on every other block, there were literally hundreds of new shops and restaurants. This article indicates that over 700 restaurants opened in NYC between March and May of 2021, which isn’t too far off “usual” numbers. Some enterprising (and funded) entrepreneurs, like Blank Street Coffee, are showing explosive growth (because a Starbucks on every corner isn’t enough).

It was also obvious that entrepreneurs operating in NYC are being nimble. Notwithstanding confusing rules, many restaurants now have “outdoor” dining enclosures on the street in front of their establishments, part of NYC’s “Open Restaurants” initiative. And it appears that NYC government is taking steps to make outdoor dining permanent. Just like what I’ve seen in the Twin Cities (and have previously written about), almost every restaurant—from street corner carts to fine dining—has takeout and delivery options available for patrons.

While a half empty guy might suggest that all this retail entrepreneurship could be the fallout from lots of pandemic-related closures of retail establishments and the resulting glut of retail space, I’m choosing to focus on the positive of new businesses being started by enterprising entrepreneurs.

I’m also looking forward to a time when I won’t need to become a student of the Greek alphabet to keep abreast of the daily news…

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