We Will Dance When It's Done: A Note On New York Nightlife During Coronavirus

by Stephanie Maida · March 16, 2020

    One of the most magical things about New York City, and a fact that's embedded into the psyches of every native, transplant, and visitor alike, is that when you step outside, you never know where it'll take you. Especially after dark. How many times have you met up with a friend for happy hour and ended up dancing on a rooftop with some C-list celebrity until sunrise? Went out for a dinner and found yourself sitting at a VIP table with bottle service paid for by someone you just met? Or (and this might only apply to me) gone to a black tie gala in a Brooklyn cemetery and somehow hailed a Hummer limo with a bunch of Australians to a punk show on the Lower East Side?

    There's nothing like New York nightlife - the energy, the experiences, the people you meet and stay friends with on Instagram (or IRL) for years to come. As Alicia Bridges once sang, "I love the nightlife, I got to boogie." But right now, we've got to say good bye.

    On Sunday night, Mayor de Blasio ordered bars and nightclubs to close their doors this week in an effort to stop the spread of coronavirus. It was no doubt a necessary decision, and one that will be imperative when it comes to "flattening the curve," but it's also one that brings forth a lot of complicated feelings. We want to support our local watering holes, our bartender friends, the places we once had no idea existed and then became the central characters in so many of our only in New York stories - and we may have tried to last week when spots were still operating at half capacity - but we will have to do so from afar for a while. 

    While Governor Cuomo seems to have a plan involving the suspension of current state liquor laws in order to allow businesses with liquor licenses to sell drinks for off-site consumption, this will be one of the biggest hits to the nightlife and hospitality industry since emergencies like Hurricane Sandy and the September 11th attacks. And given the already difficult landscape of the industry in New York right now, from rising rent prices to regulations, proprietors are understandably worried. 

    "I have spent my entire adult life in the hospitality business and I thought that I had seen it all," Shaun Rose, a partner at goldbar and Sweetwater Social, said last week, before the new measures were announced. "I have never seen anything like this. We are in uncharted territory and I don’t see an end in sight. The potential effects of this virus on the hospitality industry could be catastrophic."

    But like many business owners and working New Yorkers taking a financial hit right now, Rose is prioritizing public health and the safety of his staff. "They are family. My biggest concern is for them, their families. The best we can do is stick together as an industry. Support local, small business and stay safe."

    The city will come back, like it always does, and there will always be more memories to be made with old friends and new. The disco balls will shine on again. But for now, order your cocktails to go if and when it's safe to do so, inquire about gift cards or credits, and donate to the United States Bartenders' Guild National Charity Foundation for service workers in need of emergency funds.

    If we can do things right, right now, we will all dance when it's done - and it will be magical, like it always is.

    [Photos via @publicartsnyc]