Right now, each day can feel like a year in the restaurant industry, where the coronavirus-related news has grown more and more dire. Last Thursday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo mandated that restaurants had to halve their capacity by 50 percent. As some places scrambled to change seating, others continued to pack in crowds through the weekend. A handful of places, though, saw the writing on the wall and chose to close down completely — at least in the short-term.
Jamesport’s Grana Trattoria Antica was among the first, closing last Thursday. In Great Neck on Saturday, the sushi restaurant Shoshaku posted a sign that it would close, too — preempting, by a few hours, the village of Great Neck’s mandate for public assembly to cease.
And then, on Monday, the hammer finally came down when the governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut prohibited dining in, starting at 8 p.m. Monday.
As many restaurants pivot to takeout and delivery, a handful more decided to shutter all operations for now: Among them, Lost At Sea in Long Beach, Il Pozzo Wine Bar & Kitchen in Lynbrook, Left Coast Kitchen in Merrick, and BLVD25 in Manhasset, which is barely a year old and will close until March 29, at least. “It is definitely not a fun time for the restaurant business,” wrote Justin Aronoff, owner of BLVD25, in a text message. “Closing temporarily is one of the most uncomfortable things I’ve had to do since being in business.” (Conversely, Aronoff’s Roslyn butchery, Center Cuts, has been so busy “the line has been around the block since Thursday,” he said)
Il Pozzo in Lynbrook is also less than a year old, having opened last summer. The restaurant will be closed “for as long as we are required,” said executive chef Luke Penater. “We got ahead of the [state] closure by a few hours, because we knew it was coming. Business had been suffering for the last few days, if not the past two weeks.”
While Il Pozzo had initially set up Uber Eats and DoorDash, the team ultimately decided not to pursue delivery. “We’re not that kind of place — we’re more of a sit-down place, and half of our revenue comes from liquor sales,” Penater said.
He worried about Il Pozzo’s 15 employees, who will temporarily be out of work. While the kitchen will freeze the food it can, “we’re going to cook what we can’t freeze,” Penater said, “and give food to employees.”
Penater said the closure comes at a particularly bad time for a new restaurant, as the staff had made it through the traditionally slower winter months and looked forward to growing busier during the spring. “January, February were good and this was supposed to be an even better month,” he said. “It is tough. But we will reopen as soon as we can.”