Second Avenue Businesses See Restaurant Week Boost Amid Subway Construction

By Jill Colvin on June 7, 2012 1:05pm 

Community Board 8 Chairman Nicholas Viest, Assemblyman Dan Quart, State Sen. Liz Krueger and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer celebrate Second Avenue Restaurant Week.
Community Board 8 Chairman Nicholas Viest, Assemblyman Dan Quart, State Sen. Liz Krueger and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer celebrate Second Avenue Restaurant Week.
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DNAinfo/Jill Colvin

YORKVILLE — Upper East Side restaurants struggling to stay open amid ongoing subway construction are reporting a major boost in business this week thanks to the Second Avenue Restaurant Week.

The event, which kicked off Monday and will continue through Friday, was launched by the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce to drum up support for local eateries that have endured months of non-stop drilling, torn-up sidewalks and blocked storefronts as the new subway is built underground.

"It really helps out a lot," said Matt Wagner, 26, a bartender at DoppioSenso, an Italian neighborhood favorite between East 84th and East 85th streets which is currently hidden behind fencing and large equipment and barely visible from across the street.

Wagner credited the promotion for helping to make Wednesday night the restaurant’s busiest in weeks.

"Business has really spiked," he said.

"It has almost doubled our business," said Wagner, who estimated the construction had reduced walk-in custom by about 10 to 15 percent.

Other restaurants in the neighborhood have also been buzzing this week, making it hard for some to find a seat. Customers reported a 20-minute wait time for a table at Ithaka Greek Restaurant on East 86th Street and a half-hour wait at Sotto Cinque up the block.

Local officials, who gathered to show support for the effort with a meal at DoppioSenso Wednesday, said that, while the MTA has gotten better at minimizing its impact on the neighborhood, residents and businesses are still suffering.

"You find a lot of restaurants that are literally a construction zone," said State Sen. Liz Krueger, while munching on fried calamari inside the candle-lit restaurant, where she was joined by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Assemblyman Dan Quart, and Community Board 8 Chair Nicholas Viest.

Quart said the biggest issue for bars and restaurants has been the drop in foot traffic because people are avoiding the chaotic stretch.

“People simply walk down these blocks less," he said. "So unless you’re really making planned reservations to go to one of these restaurants, these restaurants are not going to get the benefit of people just walking down the street, looking at the menu, saying ‘I’d like to eat here.'"

DoppioSenso is barely visible through all the construction equipment and fencing lining Second Avenue.
DoppioSenso is barely visible through all the construction equipment and fencing lining Second Avenue.
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DNAinfo/Jill Colvin

Stringer, who left before dinner for babysitting duty, said he hoped the weeklong event will encourage people to stop by the more than 20 participating eateries, which are offering either 20 percent off menu items or a prix fix dinner for $20.16 — the year when the subway is expected to be completed.

Among those offering deals are Persepolis between East 73rd and East 74th streets (20 percent off food, but not wine or liquor), Brother Jimmy's BBQ between East 77th and 78th streets ($20.16 dinner special) and Don Pedro's between 96th and 97th streets (20 percent off food, but not wine or liquor).

“People who own these restaurants are fighting and struggling every day because they love what they’ve built,” Stringer said. “Our job is to make their jobs a little earlier."

But not everyone was noticing a boost.

Frank Giambanco, the owner Midnight Blue Restaurant between East 85th and East 86th streets, said he’d seen only a tiny bump in business of "maybe two percent," despite the steep discount, $5 margarita deals and free tote bags.

"We’re invisible here," he said, pointing to the construction zone outside his door, which he said has driven sales down by more than 35 percent since last year, making it difficult to stay open.

"Everyone’s just trying to survive, everyone on Second Avenue."

For a full list of participating restaurants, click here.

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