Wage hikes, other costs drive bar and restaurant owners out of city

It could soon be last call for hundreds of struggling New York City bars and restaurants.

Despite the white-hot local economy, many eateries and watering holes are teetering on the brink of financial collapse due to the sector’s surging costs and a changing cultural landscape, harried proprietors say.

Closures cut a wide swath of ethnic tastes, from Irish and Italian to Mexican and Korean. And while there was one notable revival lately — when earlier this month Mayor Bill de Blasio helped broker a deal to save the famous Neir’s Tavern in Woodhaven, Queens, from imminent closure — not everyone was impressed.

“What about the many hundreds of other bars in New York which have closed in the past three years? The numbers are astronomical,” lamented Shaun Clancy, proprietor of Foley’s, an Irish bar on 33rd Street popular with baseball fans.

Clancy, an Irish immigrant, said New York’s Irish bars in particular are dying fast. The Irish Pub on Seventh Avenue is one of the latest to shutter.

“It is becoming tougher and tougher to run a business in New York,” Clancy said. “And I can see hundreds more bars and restaurants closing in the coming year.”

“This town is toast for the small guy in business,” echoed Pat ­Hughes, owner of Lansdowne Road, an Irish pub and sports bar in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen on the verge of closure after 15 years. “I haven’t taken a paycheck, a bonus or expense check for myself since July 2018,” a dejected Hughes told The Post. “I tell my wife, I am really just like an unpaid volunteer around here.”

Pat Hughes inside Lansdowne Road.
Pat Hughes inside Lansdowne RoadJ.C. Rice

Hughes may have every reason to feel shortchanged. He is treading water in his trendy Lansdowne Road, and just about pulling it together at his two other nearby pubs, Scruffy Duffy’s and Hellcat Annie’s Tap Room. He employs 40 workers altogether. But rising overhead costs ranging from labor, benefits and upkeep to taxes, leases and city charges, have pushed his business to the precipice.

Hughes, like many others overwhelmed by New York’s escalating costs, may soon be packing up — and gone. “I am scouting out places in Charlotte, North Carolina, where the cost of business is lower,” he said. “I am absolutely thinking of pulling out of New York.”

At his 2,500-square-foot Lansdowne Road, the bills seem to mount faster than the busy barkeeps can pull pints. There’s the $90,000 in annual real estate taxes, and the pub just absorbed a jump in the minimum hourly wage. That has doubled since 2017 to $10 hourly for tipped staffers, and just soared to $15 for other workers.

“Every Tuesday, I have to come up with $18,000 in payroll costs — and it stresses me out,” Hughes said about the amount he must pay out weekly for Lansdowne Road alone.

Many establishments of all kinds are in a sharp financial freefall. The hospitality sector alone in New York City has lost some 8,400 jobs since October 2017, or about 4.8% of the workforce, according to Federal Reserve data.

“Around me here in Hell’s Kitchen, there are 30 vacant stores — and it is impacting everybody,” said Hughes, waxing nostalgic about busing tables as a young man at the Blarney Stone on 59th Street, then operated by his dad, an immigrant from Ireland.

Hughes said the day of reckoning is nearing.

“I can’t raise my prices high enough to offset the rising costs,” he added. “Nobody’s going to pay me $12 for a Bud Light. All the bar owners are complaining big-time. I hear it everywhere, it’s terrible.”

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