One weekday in October, Christina Eng, Harry Pellicoro and four of their colleagues were still lingering over a dinner of pasta, halibut and duck at Portale in Chelsea. When the clock passed 23.00, the gang – who all work with hospitality technology – still tasted Chianti. No one raced home.
“I no longer dread business dinners because they have become more fun and more social as we are not seen at work,” said Pellicoro, 28, who lives in Kips Bay. “A meal that ended before 10:30 a.m. now continues until 11:30 a.m. or 12 p.m.” Working from home allows him to let go, he said: “If I have a meeting at 11, I do not have to be [in front of my computer] 8 o’clock.”
Eng, 28, who lives in the Flatiron District, used to get up at 6 p.m. 7:30 to get dressed and make up. “Now I can sleep in and wake up to my first call, which may be 11 o’clock, and sometimes I squeeze into a workout,” she said. “It feels more relaxed and there is spontaneity. If I come across someone who wants a drink, I no longer feel pressure to come home. ”
Everywhere in the city, restaurants that just last spring had curfews that forced them to close early are experiencing a boom in dining and drinks in the evenings. Employees who only work from home or in the office part-time have a pent-up hunger for socialization and the flexibility to stay out without fear of showing up in the morning with gray eyes. The vaccine mandate has made many people more comfortable eating out, and because many have not taken vacations and are buying comfortable smart joggers and sneakers instead of paying for Prada and Manolo Blahniks, they have extra money.
“There were some people I used to only see on the weekends, but when they started working from home, they also came on Tuesdays or Wednesdays,” said Joe Ragonese, general manager of Kyma Flatiron, and its new location across from Hudson Yards. “Now every night is like Friday night! I’ve had to hire twice as many servers on weekdays than I had a pre-pandemic.”
The vibrant scene in the evening is not only limited to the center or new places; Midtown East, known to a former audience, also jumps later.
“Just a few months ago, I was sitting alone with the stuffed bears in front,” said Thomas Makkos, owner of Nello, referring to the giant stuffed animals that sat at outdoor tables to drum up. These days, diners are pouring out on Madison Avenue. “Now I often have to stay open until
On a Tuesday at the Avra Madison Estiatorio, the tables were filled at 11pm and the bar was packed with women in Golden Goose sneakers or cowboy boots and cropped sweaters and men in tight-fitting button-downs or stylish jackets. “Our rush hour was 6 right after the pandemic; now it’s 7:30, ”reported Stelios Tsappas, the restaurant’s managing partner. “We used to close during the week at 11am, but now we still take reservations at midnight.”
Diners have stayed so long and drunk at their tables when a meal is over that it caused a problem with the turnover of Fresco by Scotto. The owners decided to use their lunch time as a take-out space like an evening wine bar called the Sunset Lounge, in an attempt to shift the drinking guests. “People who are stuck at home need to blow the steam off so they drink more than ever,” said co-owner Elaina Scotto. “We need those tables.”
It’s a big payday for restaurants. “People are definitely spending more on wine,” said Vladimir Kolotyan, an owner at Isabelle’s and Barbounia in the Flatiron District. “Our check average has risen nearly 20 percent.”
Up on Sweetbriar on East 27th Street, Darla Price, president of advertising firm DDB, is about to end a meal and cocktails with two former colleagues as they decide to order a bottle of rosé more.
“There’s no longer an expectation that you’ll have to sit in an office from 9 to 6,” the Fort Greene resident said.
“Even though we are up early, I tell my team that we do not need to turn on our cameras; that’s the beauty of it! We have all proven that we can do our job from home and are better people when we have time to go out and enjoy a meal and some good wine. ”