By Jessica Easthope
The usually booming dining room at Il Bacco Ristorante in Little Neck, Queens has been empty for six months.
Owner and Operations Manager, Tina Maria Oppedisano says her family’s successful Italian restaurant is a ghost of what it once was.
“We’ll still have a decent amount of tables, with 50 percent capacity, even 25 I guess,” Tina Maria said, looking at the desolate space.
While anxiously awaiting the future, Tina Maria can’t help but focus on the past. The pandemic cost the restaurant more than just customers and money, it lost a big part of New York City culture.
“It’s part of the whole fun, you come into a restaurant that’s packed you have to wait 30, 45 minutes for a table, you have a drink at the bar, meet people, socialize — it’s part of the whole fun of restaurants,” she explained.
On Sept. 9, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that indoor dining can resume at 25 percent capacity by September 30. But after watching restaurants a block away open months ago, Il Bacco launched a $2B lawsuit against the state.
“We are located 500 feet from Nassau, they’ve been allowed indoor dining, and we haven’t since June 22. It’s a constant reminder,“ said Tina Maria.
The astronomical figure wasn’t just meant to light a fire under state lawmakers — it reflects a harsh reality.
“We’re here, we’re making a stance, we’re angry,” she told Currents News. “When I think about the total revenue loss just in Bacco alone in the past six months, a restaurant of our size, you take us, times it by X amount of thousands of restaurants in the five boroughs, and then over six months, it actually makes a lot of sense, 2 billion dollars,” she said.
But the new number that’s making restaurant owners shake is 63.6. That’s the percentage of restaurants predicted to close by the end of the year, according to a new survey from the New York State Restaurant Association.
“Even if they are allowed to open indoor dining they may not survive because everything’s backed up,” Tina Maria said.
Tina Maria says Il Bacco will continue to fight for all the restaurants who were forced to close their doors during the pandemic, and those who might still have to.