Visitors slowly returning to Times Square


Times Square, as soon as one of many largest vacationer points of interest on the planet, is slowly waking up from its coronavirus-induced slumber, The Post has realized.

Some 105,000 each day guests on common have been strolling by means of the Big Apple’s largest vacationer attraction to expertise its large billboards and neon lights, trudge into close by office buildings — and extra not too long ago to dine indoors on the eating places that enable it.

That represents a 65 % decline from the world’s bustling pre-COVID-19 days, but it surely’s an enormous enchancment over the ghost city the favored pedestrian walkway turned initially of the pandemic when simply 35,000 individuals a day have been tallied by digital counters embedded within the the district’s streetscape. 

The Times Square Alliance, which promotes the district, says it’s inspired by the progress. And native companies agree.

“We saw the bottom in March and April, plateaued in September at 105,000 and we’ve maintained that,” Tom Harris, appearing president and chief working officer of the Alliance informed The Post. “I think it’s a strong number compared to other areas of the city.”

The Alliance has no approach of realizing who the passersby are, whether or not they work within the district, are residents of close by Hell’s Kitchen or are visiting from exterior the town.

But whoever they’re, they seem to be profiting from the world’s native outlets and different facilities, together with eating places that opened at restricted capability for Valentine’s weekend.

Traffic in Times Square on February 12, 2021.
Traffic in Times Square on Feb. 12, 2021.
Photo by Eduardo MunozAlvarez/VIEWpress

“I’m seeing a start of a comeback,” Greg Wetanson, co-owner of Dallas BBQ and Tony’s Di Napoli in Times Square informed The Post. His large eating places reopened for indoor eating over the Valentine’s Day weekend and served 3 times the variety of diners he had anticipated.

The two eateries drew 18- to 28-year-olds in teams of eight to 12, households with younger kids, loyal prospects from Staten Island, Brooklyn and Queens and tri-state space suburbanites who reserved tables over the weekend, the restaurateur mentioned.

“A lot of kids have been stuck home with their parents,” Wetanson famous, including that his eating places stored in contact along with his repeat prospects over the previous year, making deliveries to the suburbs for particular events just like the Super Bowl and common deliveries over the summer season to the Hamptons.

Jeremy Merrin, founder and CEO of close by Cuban eatery Havana Central agreed that there’s cause to be optimistic, thanks partially to guidelines that permit metropolis eateries begin serving prospects indoors once more at 25 % capability beginning on Feb. 12.

“We were full on Valentine’s Day and I think most of our customers were tourists,” Merrin mentioned.

Business at Havana Central was down 82 % in 2020, however Merrin is hoping the resumption of indoor eating — together with a possible bump to 35 % capability beginning Feb. 26 — will lead to extra gross sales.

“We’ll see what the next week or two looks like, but I do think there is demand,” he mentioned. “There are New Yorkers who have been waiting for things to reopen.”

The bulk of eating places that stay closed have made it clear they’re ready for Broadway to flip the lights again on earlier than they do.

Gov. Cuomo earlier this month mentioned he’s trying into reopening Broadway for small audiences and with the usage of intensive COVID-19 testing, however he has but to provide a time-frame for when which may occur.

“We are closed for the duration of the closures of the theaters,” reads the signal at high-end Venetian restaurant Osteria Al Doge at 142 W. 44 St. Pergola Des Artistes at 252 W. forty sixth St. additionally has an indication stating it “will be closed until Broadway reopens.”

Currently, solely about half of the district’s 309 eateries are open and the majority of them are quick-service or have pivoted to supply, Times Square Alliance’s Harris mentioned.

A police officer in a nearly empty Times Square on March 14, 2020.
A police officer in an almost empty Times Square on March 14, 2020.
Photo by David Dee Delgado/Getty Images

It’s not simply eating places which can be struggling. Office buildings are about 10 % occupied, whereas space motels are reaching about 20 % occupancy, Harris mentioned.

And whereas New Yorkers love to hate on the over-crowded chaos of Times Square — the second most Instagrammed place on the planet behind Disneyland in 2017 — it’s important to the well being of the remainder of the town.

Despite spanning just some metropolis blocks — from West forty second to West forty seventh streets between Broadway and Seventh Avenue — it made up for one in each seven jobs throughout your entire metropolis in 2016, in accordance to Times Square Alliance knowledge.

It takes up simply 0.1 % of the town’s land space, however was accountable for 15 % of the financial output that year as effectively, the Alliance knowledge reveals.  

Since the pandemic began, nevertheless, extra companies there have closed than have opened. The solely eating places which have moved into the district for the reason that pandemic began have been fast-food joints, together with a Chick-fil-A at 675 Eighth Ave. and burger joint Mooyah at 485 Seventh Ave., which opened through the huge snow storm on Feb. 1.

A retailer worker for a big retail chain in Times Square that sells watches and equipment mentioned buyer site visitors is down 90 %. Lack of tourism is an enormous issue, mentioned the worker, who didn’t need to be recognized as a result of she isn’t licensed to converse to the media.

While there have been some vacationers from Puerto Rico and South America as a result of flights from these areas are so cheap, the majority of Times Square’s guests are “people who can drive to the city,” she mentioned.  

Zane Tankel, CEO of Apple-Metro, is among the many business house owners who’ve given up on returning to Times Square till it returns to its former bustling self with 380,000 guests passing by means of every day.

Apple-Metro, which owns 34 Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill & Bars within the NY metro space, closed its two Times Square places in March and has not reopened them due to a scarcity of foot site visitors within the space, he informed The Post. His Applebee’s on forty second Street — which had served some 20,000 diners every week — is situated subsequent to some 40 film theaters which have been closed, whereas his eatery on West fiftieth Street and Seventh Avenue depended extra closely on the theater district.

Asked when he’ll unlock his Times Square eating places once more, Tankel quipped: “When you look up at the sky and start to see airplanes flying over the city, I’ll reopen.”


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