The summer has been slower for restaurants like the ones Nancy Bambara oversees in Saratoga Springs. A tourism and horse racing mecca in upstate New York, Saratoga is typically jammed with visitors in the summertime.
The good news: Parking these days downtown has never been busier. The bad news: This summer is definitely slower, Bambara said in an interview on Monday.
"I think there are people in town," said Bambara, the vice president of D-Z Restaurants. "But the quantity of those people are not here. All of us in the restaurant industry capitalize on the summer months and I think that's going to be really challenging."
And it's not just the track going without fans in attendance: Bambara pointed the lack of a concert season at Saratoga Performing Arts Center. No Dave Matthews shows, no Philadelphia Orchestra.
Small businesses around New York and the country are grappling with the fallout from the pandemic-induced recession which has hit them especially hard. The hospitality sector has seen the steepest drop in employment.
The proof is in D-Z Restaurant's own staffing needs right now: The company brought back half of the workers it usually employs in the summer months.
Most restaurants in New York, according to a survey of the New York Restaurant Association, do not expect to be profitable over the next six months.
The National Federation of Independent Businesses on Monday released a survey that found one in five small businesses expect to close in the next six months if action in Washington isn't taken to provide more aid.
“New Yorkers have shown unmatched resiliency in the face of an unprecedented public health emergency. The sacrifice from everyday New Yorkers has delivered an opportunity to once again lead the nation, this time in our economic recovery,” said Greg Biryla, the group's state director in New York. “As evidenced by NFIB’s latest COVID-19 survey, small businesses are still struggling with many approaching the brink of solvency. Immediate, dynamic, and flexible solutions are required from Washington, D.C. and New York State. If given the necessary relief and support to endure, small businesses across our state and country will be the driving force for economic revitalization and our return to normalcy.”
New York's unemployment rate in July reached 15.9 percent and ticked upward outside of New York City to 13.3 percent.
All of this will have a cascading effect on the broader economy. Fewer people working usually means less people spending money and that means less revenue for local governments, which will have to make difficult spending and taxing choices in the coming months to make ends meet.
Restaurants outside of New York City are operating under fewer restrictions: They can serve people indoors with limited capacity. But at some point the reality of living in the Northeast will settle in: In a few months, it's going to get cold again.
"I think they're going to have to do something to get us through the next eight months. I think we all know winter is coming quickly. Indoor dining is going to be very limited," Bambara said. "Restaurants of all sizes won't be able to sustain themselves where they are right now."