When Covid-19 turned New York into the pandemic’s epi-center, neighborhood restaurants were some of the first casualties of what was going to be become a health and economic crisis for our city.

As we started to climb out of the first wave of devastation, and summer arrived, there felt like there might be a light at the end of the tunnel. Dining restrictions eased up enough to allow outdoor dining and as Autumn hit, outdoor restaurant villages started popping up all over New York. But for many restaurants the damage was done.

The East Village has seen more closures in the last year than any other neighborhood in the Big Apple. Most neighborhoods around the city have seen an average of 20 restaurant closures since March 2020. The West Village has had 21 closures, the Lower East Side has seen 19 and Midtown has seen 13. Those numbers alone are hard enough to digest but they are still less than half of the 55 restaurants that have closed down permanently in the East Village.

Why the East Village?

Although the East Village is filled with restaurants, it caters far more to alcohol consumption than dining. The night life is far more Bourbon Street than foodie culinary destination. While most New York restaurants only see 25% of their revenue from alcohol sales, the East Village numbers are closer to 75%.

The neighborhood has seen New York landmarks shutter their doors for good. Gem Spa, the candy store that is believed to have made the very first egg cream in the 1920’s, closed down. Even more of a statement on how bad things have gotten is the permanent closure of Coyote Ugly. After 28 years in business, the restaurant’s owner, Liliana Lovell, reported that the lockdown was a final nail in the coffin after rent hikes became too difficult to sustain.

Hope of Rebirth

The residents of the East village are college students and twenty-somethings who are going out at midnight and hitting the corner pizzeria at 6 AM. Meanwhile, the Covid-19 dining restrictions shut NYC restaurants down at 11 PM. The new rules have left partiers with no party to be found. These young New Yorkers left the city in droves and returned to their parents in the suburbs. All that was left after their exodus were empty streets and deserted restaurants.

But the hope lies in the tight-knit community that is the East Village. It will take quite some time to be reborn, but those twenty-somethings will return and will be looking for a place to celebrate. They will be looking for the energy of their old stomping grounds and, in time, restaurant owners will be back to give it to them.

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