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New York fell asleep during Covid, now it’s struggling to wake up again | New York

New York is the city that never sleeps. Where is it? Short-staffed post-pandemic restaurants are closing earlier and the city’s late-night bars, gyms and clubs are fewer than they once were.

Amid the economic stress, return to work, crime and other quality of life issues facing the metropolis, Mayor Eric Adams and the city’s Nightlife Office are battling to reclaim the wee hours and inspire New Yorkers to show off their moves on the dance floor.

“As New York recovers from the global pandemic, it’s debatable whether its reputation as a 24-hour city is in jeopardy,” said the New York Times worried last week.

“It’s sad that it’s hard to buy a slice of pizza after 10 p.m., but I think we’ll soon be a 24-hour city again,” says Paul Sevigny, brother of actress Chloe, who ran a series of nightclubs including Don Hill’s, Beatrice Inn and currently Baby Grand and Paul’s Casablanca.

“The powers that be understand what a loss it would be to the city if it wasn’t known as the city that never sleeps,” he says. “The last thing they want is for it to end up like Boston with all the problems and none of the upsides.”

Guests can enjoy an evening at Paul’s Baby Grand Lounge Bar in New York. Photography: Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images

Sevigny says demand for nightlife in the city is back, for smaller clubs like his and for an influx of private clubs, but also for cavernous dance clubs in Brooklyn and beyond.

Part of the impetus for returning to 24/7, he says, is rent. “You are already paying astronomical prices, so why not stay open?

Han Jiang, a stylist at Saint Laurent and a DJ at Sevigny’s clubs, says the city is “leaning toward people who don’t sleep anymore.” For now, as the nightlife returns, customers are in a nostalgic mood, like much of the culture, favoring Abba and Michael Jackson while looking for something new, she says.

A 2019 report from the city’s Bureau of Nightlife estimated that the nighttime economy supports 299,000 jobs with $13.1 billion in wages and $35.1 billion in total output. He noted that “Throughout its long history, nightlife has been central to New York’s identity. The “city that never sleeps” is a destination for dreamers and doers and an epicenter of creativity. »

But there are also post-pandemic issues: New York has been slowly bouncing back. Employers are fighting to get workers back to their offices and the city has lost 176,000 jobs. The vacancies that do exist, often late at night or for low pay and tips, have proven difficult to fill.

But the shortage of workers and a rise in street crime and homelessness, often associated with mental illness, have caused anxiety among city residents.

Studio 54 in New York
Manhattan’s Studio 54 nightclub in 1978, when New York was enjoying its reputation as the “city that never sleeps”. Photography: Antoinette Norcia/Sygma/Getty Images

Asked for a list of local tips on how to get the most out of the Big Apple, for a long time Voice of the village Nightlife correspondent Michael Musto recently said, “In a subway station, while waiting for your train to arrive, hold on tight to a pole. Need I say more? »

Office of Nightlife Executive Director Ariel Palitz told the Observer that the city is still in its recovery. “The compassionate perspective is not that Covid has been a fatal blow to the character of the city. We are in a process of healing and improvement.

Palitz’s office undertook a number of reforms, including introducing mechanisms to mitigate disputes between clubs and community councils, mental health care for nightlife workers, and a Narcan Behind Every Bar campaign to ensure clubs have overdose kits to help deal with drugs adulterated with fentanyl.

Young people, says Palitz, always have a strong urge to get out and stay out, to let go, to drink and to dance. “But now we have the opportunity to build back better. We had come to a complete stop, and we can’t just go back to how it was.

At the head of this charge is the mayor himself, Eric Adams. He can often be found at Osteria La Baia, a downtown Italian restaurant, or at Zero Bond, a private club whose owner was recently named to the board of the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Adams’ recommendation.

New York Mayor Eric Adams
New York City Mayor Eric Adams at a runway show during the city’s fashion week this month. Photography: John Nacion/NurPhoto/REX/Shutterstock

“It’s not an album release party until the mayor is here,” rapper French Montana said in an Instagram post this summer.

“When you go out at night, it helps reduce crime. It attracts tourists,” Adams said before taking office.

“He goes everywhere,” says Sevigny. “We like it.” But some have already begun to wonder if his enthusiasm for the night might create conflicts of interest.

“He shamelessly understands that New York is a 24-hour city,” Palitz says. “He makes it a priority that New York isn’t just 9 to 5, Wall Street, bringing people back to offices. It’s about bringing people back to clubs, workers behind the bar, DJing and entertaining our businesses and visitors.

But Jiang warns that if people are going out again, the nightlife scene has changed for reasons that predate the pandemic. “Before, people could let loose in nightclubs and feel completely safe, but social media has changed that. They’re worried about people pulling out a camera.

The now defunct Beatrice Inn in Sévigny, one of the last legendary wild dives, arrived just before the advent of the smartphone. Patrons may not mind being photographed upon entering, but once inside, Sevigny now has a no-photos policy at its other clubs. “A lot of places have built their reputations on bold names, but you won’t see those names doing what they did in New York,” he says.