Visitors are slowly returning to Times Square

Times Square, once one of the world’s largest tourist attractions, is slowly waking up from its coronavirus-inspired slumber, The Post has learned.

On average some 105,000 daily tourists walk through the Big Apple’s biggest tourist attraction to experience its giant hoardings and neon lights, trudges in nearby office buildings – and recently allowed to dine indoors in restaurants Give.

This represents a 65 percent drop from the area’s bustling pre-COVID-19 days, but it is a major improvement over the ghost town popular walkway became at the beginning of the epidemic when only 35,000 people a day went from electronic counters Used to be long. Road network of the district

The Times Square Alliance, which promotes the district, says it is encouraged by the progress. And local businesses agree.

“We looked down in March and April, which peaked at 105,000 in September and we have maintained that,” Alliance President and Chief Operating Officer Tom Harris told The Post. “I think this is a stronger number than other areas of the city.”

The Alliance has no way of knowing who the passersby are, whether they work in the district, are residents of the nearby Hell’s Kitchen or are coming from outside the city.

But whoever they are, they appear to be taking advantage of the local shops and other amenities in the area, including restaurants that have opened at limited capacity for Valentine’s Weekend.

Traffic in Times Square on February 12, 2021.
Traffic in Times Square on February 12, 2021.
Photo by Eduardo MunozAlvarez / VIEWpress

“I’m seeing the beginning of a comeback,” Greg Watterson, co-owner of Dallas BBQ and Tony’s Di Napoli in Times Square, told The Post. His restaurant reopened for indoor dining over Valentine’s Day weekend and had expected three times the number of diners.

Both eateries attracted 18- to 28-year-olds in groups of eight to 12, families with young children, loyal customers from Staten Island, Brooklyn and Queens, and people from the Tri-State sub-suburban area keeping reserved tables on weekends he said.

“A lot of kids have stayed home with their parents,” Watterson said, adding that his restaurants kept in touch with their repeat customers over the past year, for special occasions like the Super Bowl and regular deliveries Delivery to suburbs. Humptons in summer.

Jeremy Merrin, the founder and chief executive of nearby Cuban eatery Havana Central, agreed that there is reason to be optimistic, part of the that city eateries started serving customers again at 25 percent capacity starting February 25 .

“We were full on Valentine’s Day and I think most of our customers were tourists,” Merrin said.

Business in Havana Central was down 82 percent in 2020, but Merrin is expecting a restart of indoor dining – including a potential 35 percent bump starting February 26 – to lead more sales.

“We will see the next week or two, but I think there is demand,” he said. “There are New Yorkers who are waiting for things to reopen.”

Restaurants that remain closed have made it clear that they are waiting for Broadway so they turn off the lights.

Gov. Cuomo said earlier this month that she was reopening Broadway to a smaller audience with the use of extensive COVID-19 testing, but no timeframe has yet been provided for her.

“We are closed for the duration of theaters’ closing,” the high-end Venetian restaurant Ostrea Al Doge also has signatures at 142 W. 44 St. 44 Pergola des Artists at 252 W. 46 St. “Broadway will be closed until it reopens.”

Harris of the Times Square Alliance said that currently, about half of the district’s 309 eateries are open and many of them are in quick service or ready for delivery.

A police officer in a nearly empty Times Square on March 14, 2020.
A police officer in a nearly empty Times Square on March 14, 2020.
Photo by David de Delgado / Getty Images

It is not just restaurants that are suffering. Harris said office buildings are about 10 percent occupied, while area hotels are about 20 percent occupied.

And while New Yorkers love to hate on the over-crowded chaos of Times Square – the second-most Instagrammed place on the planet behind Disneyland in 2017 – it’s important to the health of the rest of the city.

According to Times Square Alliance data, just a few blocks across the city – from West 42nd streets between Broadway and Seventh Avenue – was created in 2016 for one in seven jobs.

It accounts for only 0.1 percent of the city’s land area, but was responsible for 15 percent of that year’s economic output, Alliance data shows.

Ever since the epidemic began, however, there have been more trade-offs. The only restaurants that have come to the district since the epidemic have joined fast-food joints, including Chick-film-A at 675 Eighth Avenue and the burger joint Mooyah at 485 Seventh Avenue, which opened during a large icy storm Was 1 February.

A store employee for a large retail chain in Times Square that sells watches and accessories said customer traffic was down 90 percent. Lack of tourism is a big factor, said the employee, who did not want to be identified because he is not authorized to talk to the media.

While some tourists have arrived from Puerto Rico and South America because flights from those areas are so cheap, the bulk of Times Square visitors are “people who can drive into the city,” she said.

Apple-Metro CEO Zan Tunkel is among the business owners who have given up on returning to Times Square until returning to their former bustle, passing with 380,000 visitors each day.

He said Apple-Metro, which 34 Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill and Bars in the NY metro area, closed two of its Times Square locations in March and did not reopen them due to lack of foot traffic in the area. His Applebee’s 42nd Street – which served some 20,000 diners a week – is located next to some 40 movie theaters that have been closed, while his eatery on West 50th Street and the Seventh Avenue Theater were more dependent on the district .

Asked how he would reopen his Times Square restaurant, Tankel quipped: “When you look at the sky and start seeing the airplane from above the city, I’ll reopen.”

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