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‘The industry is over’: Hudson Valley Restaurants Confront the Pandemic

Across the Hudson Valley, restaurants like Kingston’s Sissy’s Cafe, above, are facing tough decisions. Photo: Denee Francese-Smith
On March 18, two days after Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered restaurant dining rooms shut down indefinitely to combat the spread of the coronavirus, Denee Francese-Smith, owner of Sissy’s Cafe in Kingston, sat alone poring over a ledger, trying to decide what to do. Two days earlier, she had removed tables to comply social-distancing orders. Now, between visits to the US Small Business Association website looking for information on how to get a loan through the Paycheck Protection Program, Francese-Smith was looking for a sliver of hope that the business she and her sister had built up could get by in a new world of curbside pickup and delivery.

The past two months have seen a startling reversal for an industry that had become a linchpin of the tourism-based regional economy. A survey conducted by the New York State Restaurant Association found that restaurants had lost $3.6 billion in sales and laid off 80 percent of their workforce since March.

Restaurateurs across the region are now seeking answers about how and when a reopening might take place, but the coronavirus has revealed industrywide precarity, and the future looks unclear. Our latest feature, by longtime Hudson Valley chronicler Jesse J. Smith, takes a deep dive into what the restaurant industry looks like now, and the uncertainty it faces after the pandemic.

Read the story

More COVID-19 features on The River:

Lost in Translation
Translation services have increased in recent years, but the pandemic has emphasized the need for language justice for non-English speakers in the Hudson Valley.

Read more »

‘Nurses have been betrayed.’ 
Nurses face long shifts, staff shortages, reduced supplies of PPE, and inadequate support from state and federal governments in the fight against COVID-19.

Read more »

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