A New York City restaurant owner is brave to take up the challenge of running a food service establishment during normal times, but the strain some restaurants experienced as a result of the coronavirus pandemic was the final straw.
“It was incredible, the time arch,” recalls Vince Mazeau, owner of Cherry Point (664 Manhattan Ave.), who made the fraught decision to permanently close his English-inspired farm-to-table bistro last month.
“From the end of the second week of March to the beginning of the third week, I thought, ‘I have to keep the restaurant open so my staff can keep earning money.” Most of the Cherry Point staff remained onboard since the restaurants’ May 2016 opening, and Mazeau has launched a relief fund for proceeds to be evenly split among his employees.
Other businesses in the area have since followed suit, including Gimme! Coffee, which announced the closure of its Williamsburg and Nolita shops this week.
Faced with a tough decision as an independent restaurant owner not primed for takeout, Mazeau worked out an agreement with his landlord who agreed to stop collecting rent while he seeks out a lease takeover.
“It might seem like I made a split second decision to close permanently, but I let my landlord know,” he said.
In it’s brief but impactful four-year run in a former Polish butcher shop on Manhattan Avenue, Cherry Point’s refined menu of charcuterie drew attention from multiple food outlets, including a NY Times food critic, while devoted locals raved about the double-patty cheeseburger and brunch service.
Sadly, devoted fans will never step foot inside the Cherry Point again.”The business side makes it unlikely that I’d reopen in that space,” Mazeau said. “I can’t carry that risk on my own any longer.”
For now, he’s focusing on keeping his wife and two kids safe while waiting out the pandemic like everyone else. But Mazeau also remains on the lookout for the next opportunity. “I love and loathe every minute of running a restaurant. You have to adsorb so much stress as you’re actually enjoying it as well,” he said.
Asked if he thinks more restaurants will permanently close as the PAUSE stretches on, Mazeau says it’s difficult to speak for other business owners, but he does foresee a drop in investor confidence.
“It’s not for the light of heart at all to begin with in the best of times so I don’t know if investors are freaked out by this,” he said. “It’s certainly going to be a domino effect, there’s just no way anybody could say to what degree.”