Long Island Bar Owner’s NYT Op-Ed: Will They Be Back?

Toby Cecchini, co-owner of Long Island Bar at the corner of Henry and Atlantic, penned a despairing op-ed in The New York Timespondering the future of New York City’s restaurant and bar scene.

Cecchini was diagnosed with Covid-19 in March and spent a month in various stages of physical and emotional distress. While he is physically recovered, contemplating the options for his business has brought no solace.

His article takes on the Payroll Protection Program, insurance companies, the restrictions he’ll face when he is finally the green light to open, and the high costs of operating a restaurant. He also suggests that bars and restaurants will be held to impossible standards, unlike other businesses that have continued to operate.

“The grocery and liquor stores in Brooklyn where I’ve been shopping have customers in their aisles cheek by jowl — six-foot measures be damned — with no one objecting. Offices and factories nationwide will open to suggestions and guidelines for safety galore, but nothing officially mandating that they must hobble their production. Why should we be singled out for delimiting?”

For those of us longing to return to our favorite watering holes and dining spots, the article sounds a desperate note for the future of not only Long Island Bar, but of the hospitality scene that is the lifeblood of our city.

Read the full story at the Times. 

Photo credit Tjeerd Wiersma via flickr. Used with permission.

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  • Jorale-man

    The sad part is, a restaurant like his, or Colonie across the street, makes its appeal as much on the “scene” as on the food itself. Maybe more so. So switching to delivery or contact-less pickup is probably not going to pay the bills by any stretch.

    I’ve seen photos of a restaurant in Rome that installed plexiglass dividers down the center of the tables. Maybe that’s the kind of measure that will have to be enacted to get people to feel safe in restaurants again.

  • Reggie

    There are many real criticisms in this op-ed, most of which have been made elsewhere already. What left a bad taste in my mouth was Cecchini’s blindness to where an expensive restaurant fits on the current and possibly future scales of what is important. (I make this observation as a product of the 60s who has enjoyed several evenings at the Long Island Bar and one night with a waitress from Bizarroland.) The piece had a real Ancien Régime tone to it, at least to my ear.

  • Love Laner

    Hoping they make it and that all of their staff recover financially and physical (terrifying that multiple staff members fell sick). Our restaurants are in danger but also our theaters and our museums– institutions that also rely on ‘filling the house’ to stay afloat and even less able to spread out on to the sidewalk compared to restaurants. Should there be a commercial eviction moratorium as well?

  • Banet

    First, it’s more a bar than restaurant. Second, I wouldn’t call it “expensive” as much as… moderate?

    But lastly, regardless of how expensive the food and alcohol is, the staff who work there are likely extremely working class. After all, they’re bartenders and waitresses and dishwashers and prep cooks. Keeping those people employed is critical to keeping NYC on its feet.

  • Reggie

    You are right, economically, if the assumption is made that the status quo is to be maintained. What I was offering is the possibility that the Coronavirus gives us an opportunity to question an economy where, in your words, “extremely working class” people earn their living keeping the ‘five percent’ entertained.

  • B.


    One of my grandfathers opened clams at Lundy’s all his life; the other was a waiter. Work is honorable, and workers’ kids and grandkids do better.

    Besides, doing such jobs is all that some people can do. My grandfathers were poor immigrants.

    I wouldn’t deprive them of their meager livelihoods just to satisfy better-off people’s guilt.

  • Reggie

    I don’t make my observation out of guilt; I earned what I have the hard way. I also worked in restaurants and held any number of menial jobs. You don’t understand the point that I am making but that is okay.