New York City bars, restaurants pursue adaptation to survive

NEW YORK (AP) : Olivier Conan didn’t see how it was going to work, keeping Barbès, his Brooklyn bar/performance space, open through the pandemic when live performances and crowded spaces have been at the top of the DON’T list.

“The whole idea of this place is the opposite of social distancing. It was social proximity,” he said.

So, Conan adapted — taking his approach of curating what he wanted to expose his customers to and turning it from music to wine.

The venue has recently turned into a bottle shop, focusing on small producers and wineries.

“Honestly, that’s what will keep this place surviving,” he said.

Wine salesman Jeff Hansen, left, replaces the cork on a bottle of wine after pouring samples for Barbès retail manager Hanna Cheek, center, and owner Olivier Conan at the popular music venue and bar Conan converted to a bottle shop during the coronavirus pandemic Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020, in the Brooklyn borough of New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

He’s not the only one, of course. The months of pandemic have meant nothing but change for the city’s restaurant and bar owners, who have had to deal with limits to what kind of service they could offer, how many people could be inside when indoor dining was allowed to return, and how to adjust to the rise of outdoor dining.

That roller coaster of change is still continuing, as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said that indoor dining could be shut down as soon as Monday if coronavirus hospitalizations don’t stabilize.

The industry has been hit hard, with closures and lost jobs.

Wade Hagenbart has closed down a restaurant he had just opened in late 2019, as well as Angry Wade, a Brooklyn bar he started 20 years ago, leaving him with his Gueros restaurant focusing on takeout.

“Everybody got hurt, there’s not one person who hasn’t, from the landlord to the dishwasher, everybody is getting hurt by this pandemic,” he said.

Although a COVID-19 vaccine rollout could begin any day, it will not have arrived soon enough to save thousands of bars and restaurants. (Dec. 11)

He was resigned to the turn of pandemic events.

“My attitude from the beginning was there’s not much you can do about it, and if there’s nothing you can do about it, you really can’t get too angry about it. You have to figure out what you can affect, how you can affect stuff and you work toward that,” he said.

He was committed to his restaurant future, though, and said he was hoping to find good spaces for new restaurants when the pandemic has passed.

Hanna Cheek clears space on a shelf while organizing storage for wine and liquor in the now-idle performance space at Barbès, a popular neighborhood music venue and bar converted to a bottle shop, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
A band member, left, joins Olivier Conan, center, as the pair strum baglamas, stringed instruments from Greece and Turkey similar to lutes, outside the entrance to Barbès, a popular neighborhood music venue and bar that Conan recently converted to a bottle shop, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020, in the Brooklyn borough of New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Barbès retail manager Hanna Cheek carries boxes to the curb after storing a wine shipment in the former music venue’s now-idle performance space, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020, in the Brooklyn borough of New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Bottles of organic and biodynamically-produced wine, whiskey and liquor line the shelves at Barbès, a popular neighborhood music venue and bar which was converted into a bottle shop to survive the winter during the coronavirus pandemic, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020, in the Brooklyn borough of New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Bartender Alex Wright sanitizes a table before opening Barbès, a popular neighborhood music venue and bar converted to a bottle shop and mostly-outdoor bar during the the coronavirus pandemic, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Bartender Alex Wright, left, reviews paperwork on a wine delivery at Barbès, a popular music venue and bar that has been converted to a bottle shop to survive the winter during the coronavirus pandemic, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Customer Koray Calistan, has a drink at Barbès, a popular neighborhood music venue and bar converted to a bottle shop to survive the winter during the coronavirus pandemic, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Wade Hagenbart lifts plastic piping for a tent while building a winter shelter for patrons of Guero’s, the popular taco and margarita restaurant he co-owns in Brooklyn’s Prospect Heights neighborhood, Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Wade Hagenbart, right, lifts the top off a wooden support barrier for a tent he’s constructing for outdoor dining Guero’s, the tiny but popular taco and margarita restaurant he co-owns in the Prospect Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

A pedestrian passes The Dram Shop bar, which is only open to private parties during the coronavirus pandemic in order to survive the winter, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

By : KATHY WILLENS, TED SHAFFREY and DEEPTI HAJELA – AP News

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