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March 16, 2020 4:18 pm

New York’s Kosher Restaurants Feeling the Pinch as Coronavirus Pandemic Closes Bars, Eateries Across City

avatar by Ben Cohen

An empty street is seen in Manhattan borough of New York City, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), March 15, 2020. Photo / Jeenah Moon.

New York City’s vibrant kosher restaurant scene was reeling on Monday as bars and eateries across the city shuttered in anticipation of a worsening coronavirus pandemic.

The collective decision on Sunday by the governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut to close all bars and restaurants, excepting takeout and delivery, from 8 p.m. on Monday night was a potentially devastating blow to an industry that has already seen revenues slump amid public concern over the spread of COVID-19.

“There is still so much that is unknown, but there’s no question that we’ve experienced a massive drop in business over the last week,” Sruli Eidelman — who runs the popular kosher southern BBQ joint Izzy’s Smokehouse in Brooklyn — told The Algemeiner on Monday.

One of the world’s major eating capitals, New York’s bars and restaurants employ up to 320,000 workers, the majority of whom are now facing an indefinite period of unemployment.

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“We’re preparing for the worst,” Eidelman stated.

Although his restaurant will remain open for takeout and delivery orders, Eidelman said that he was facing a 25-percent reduction in staff.

“We’re hoping this thing passes really quick,” he added.

Zalman Wuensch — owner of the upscale Wolf and Lamb kosher steakhouse in midtown Manhattan — expressed similar anxiety about the impact on restaurant staff.

“The servers are in a very tight position, there’s no work for them, and we’re operating with a skeleton staff in the kitchen,” Wuensch told The Algemeiner.

While Wuensch is also keeping his establishment open for takeout and delivery orders, he noted that many Wolf and Lamb patrons do not live near the restaurant’s East 48th street location. He hoped demand would be greater at the restaurant’s second location in Brooklyn’s Flatbush section.

“It’s a day-to-day situation,” Wuensch said. “We’re really just watching and trying our best.”

A survey of New York’s hospitality sector by Crain’s New York Business in 2016 found that there were nearly 300 kosher restaurants in the city — almost as many as the number of French and Indian eateries — bolstered by a growing trend toward keeping kosher among younger Jews.

But all restaurants in the city would be feeling the pinch in the current crisis, according to Doris Schechter — founder of the normally-packed kosher eatery My Most Favorite Food on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

“We’re all in the same boat, there’s no differentiation between kosher and non-kosher,” Schechter told The Algemeiner. “We’re all in disbelief.”

Nonetheless, Schechter sounded an optimistic note when asked about her restaurant’s prospects during the coming weeks of uncertainty.

“We’re all hanging in, we’re living in crazy times,” she said. “But we’re here for orders to go. And we’re getting ready for Passover.”

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