Post-Sandy Restaurant Recovery Stories: Print Open Continuously, No Internet

Print restaurant never missed serving a single meal during Hurricane Sandy.

Restaurant Name: Print
Location:  Hell’s Kitchen in New York
Years in Business: Three
Status: Open for business, has phone service, but no Internet access.
Damage: None.
Losses: None. The restaurant hasn’t closed for a single meal period before, during, or after the storm.
Owner: Adam Block

Prior to Sandy, had you ever had to deal with a disaster situation at this or any restaurant?

We were here for Hurricane Irene last year, but the intensity of Sandy was far worse than Irene. And we’ve always had an ongoing issue with the wind on our rooftop. In fact, before we first opened the wind gusts blew a couch off the roof. And, being one block off the Hudson, we have always had a big fear that the water would make it to us.

Did you shut the doors to prepare for the storm?

We stayed open, and we were there morning, noon, and night. Having dealt with Irene, I had the presence of mind on Sunday to order three days of food. We didn’t know if we would lose power, but we have a generator that can run for three or four days. Since we’re in a building with a 220-room hotel, we had guests stranded and it remained that way through Saturday. Most folks couldn’t really get out of town until Thursday, and then we had the marathoners come in, and then they couldn’t get out. So, we’ve been very busy from Monday on.

In the aftermath, the Red Cross has been set up one block away from us, and we are doing free meals for responders. And, we’ve gotten quite a bit of donations for those efforts from our vendors.

What was the actual experience of Sandy like?

Well, the building is an old printing factory and it withstood everything. We worried most about flying debris. There’s construction all over the neighborhood. Sixteen floors up, we have a greenhouse on our roof that is supposed to withstand 110-mile-per-hour winds. My biggest fear was that it would blow off the roof, so I kept the lounge closed, and I had to babysit that all night. It was frightening. As we prepared for the storm and the winds were already growing so loud at 30 and 40 miles per hour, I thought for certain that there would be no way it would withstand 100 mile an hour winds – but it did. It was amazing.

The other thing that was very difficult was that I had 125 employees, and I had to find enough who were willing to stay with me through the storm. It was a logistical nightmare, getting people rooms and pairing people up. But what I learned during Irene is that it was a bonding experience, and I would say the same was true here. Everyone worked together.

What was the most popular menu item during these days?

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Post-Sandy Restaurant Recovery Resources from NYC Hospitality Alliance

Post-Sandy scene from lower Manhattan, courtesy of Acqua at Peck Slip.

As New York City restaurants deal with the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, they may find themselves overwhelmed by the many steps they need to take to get and keep their doors open. Andrew Rigie, Executive Director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance, and his team have put together a comprehensive, up-to-the-minute recovery resource guide for restaurateurs.

Rigie, who has been organizing outreach efforts on behalf of the Alliance, says, “Different hospitality businesses have been impacted to different degrees. Business owners are asking what are the resources out there, how can I get back open, what can I do about my insurance claims, and what kinds of loans are available.” This guide lists resources for each of those concerns. The Alliance’s efforts extend beyond the guide, naturally. Because of limited power and cell service in Manhattan, he and his team are using social media to reach restaurateurs in need, as well as pounding the pavement and disseminating information. They are also working to coordinate the efforts of restaurateurs interested in helping to feed the hungry.

Where should a restaurateur begin recovery? “First, safety should be the number one concern,” Rigie cautions restaurant operators. “If you’re concerned about your safety or that of your employees, get in touch with the City for assistance. If you’re not sure how to do that, get in touch with us.” Attention should then turn to food safety precautions and reaching out to insurance brokers, making sure to carefully document damage and file claims correctly.

Even restaurants that have been fully operational for several days are meeting challenges, regarding phone and Internet access, and, also, staffing. “Employees want to work, but it’s been getting difficult for many of them to get to the restaurants,” Rigie notes. “Some businesses are using delivery trucks to pick up employees or are offering to reimburse workers for transportation costs,” until transportation systems are fully restored.

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Post-Sandy Restaurant Recovery Stories: Porter House New York Fully Operational

Porter House New York is serving a full menu, including their signature Porterhouse steak!

Restaurant: Porter House New York
Location: Midtown Manhattan, New York
Years in Business: Six
Status: Open, no internet access.
Damage: None.
Losses: Two days of service.
General Manager: Chris Miller

Prior to Sandy, had you ever had to deal with a disaster situation at this or any restaurant?

I was in Hurricane Katrina.

Wow. So, how did that inform what steps you and your staff took? 

We just thought about the safety of our employees, first and foremost. We didn’t want anybody to get hurt. We just wanted them to be able to take care of their families and come back when they were able.

When did you shut the doors to prepare for the storm?

Sunday night.

What have your post-Sandy reopening efforts entailed?

When we opened for Wednesday lunch, it was really about making sure the dining room was back in order. We had secured everything, so that if we did have anything blow out, the damage would be minimal.

What are some of the challenges you’re facing?

We do a lot of online reservations, and right now, we’re not able to do that. There are a lot of people in town for the race, and they are looking for restaurants, so we’d like them to know we are here to serve them.

How can diners help?

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Post-Sandy Restaurant Recovery Stories: Acqua in Lower NYC Flooded, Rebuilding

The damage to Acqua is extensive, but they are working to reopen every day.

Restaurant Name: Acqua at Peck Slip
Location: Lower Manhattan, New York
Years in Business: Seven
Status: Closed and actively working to reopen by November 20, 2012.
Damage: Major flooding and property damage.
Losses: Possibly 30 days of service; loss of most equipment and food
Manager: Daria Spieler

Prior to Sandy, had you ever had to deal with a disaster situation at this or any restaurant?

“This is the first one we’ve really dealt with. When Irene was here, it wasn’t a problem. We didn’t have water come anywhere near us. This time, we got hit very hard; the whole downtown area is in a bad situation.”

When did you shut the doors to prepare for the storm?

“We closed after Saturday lunch service. Then, we then prepped for the storm, taped the windows, and so on. None of our precautions helped. Neighboring restaurants had their windows boarded, but that didn’t help either. We thought that there would be some water damage, but we could not imagine it would be so much. We had over five feet of water in the restaurant.”

Post-Sandy clean up will require almost round-the-clock work.

What have your post-Sandy reopening efforts entailed?

“We made our way back down to the restaurant on Tuesday morning. We assessed what happened, but even later Tuesday, we could not enter the basement. The water was literally up to the ceiling.”

Can you elaborate on the damage you’re dealing with?

“More than five feet of water poured into the restaurant, completely flooding the basement and damaging everything in it, as well as parts of the restaurant. We just finished pumping out the water, cleaning up, and we’re now trying to see if there was anything that can be saved. Equipment on the main floor of the restaurant has been damaged, too. Refrigerators. POS systems. The OpenTable system didn’t survive. We got the news today that most of downtown Manhattan’s power will be restored by Saturday, but our building is not going to be one of them because the flooding was too severe. The power lines will need more work, so best case scenario is power in a week, worst case is two weeks.”

What are some of the biggest challenges you’re facing now?

“Raising money. Some restaurants are lucky enough to have a little financial back-up, but the City of New York has been doing construction directly in front of us for some time now, and it has hurt our business and sales have been down. We have reached out to FEMA and the City of New York, of course. There are loans available, and we are working to secure them, but there are thousands of applications and it will take time. One of the loans is for $10,000, which will not cover even a small part of the repairs we must do to reopen. Still, anything will help!”

How can diners help?

“We have created a Fundly page for people to donate. For every donation, Acqua will email you a gift certificate for lunch or dinner at ACQUA! So it is more like an investment or a loan — and for a good cause!”

How is your staff holding up?

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