Life After a Pandemic Queens restaurants and bars work to survive amid uncertain future
10 JUNE 2 0 2 0
Cantina 33, a Peruvian restaurant in Ridgewood,
reopened in May after temporarily closing due to
the COVID-19 health crisis.
The Lowery Bar and
Kitchen in Sunnyside
opened for pickup after
due to the pandemic.
Cantina 33, a brand-new Peruvian
restaurant at 55-33 Myrtle
Ave. in Ridgewood, was only
open for two months before it
had to temporarily close due
to New York state’s stay-athome
“I honestly thought it was going to
last like two weeks,” said Chef Kevin Lenis,
owner of Cantina 33. “I didn’t think
it would be this long. But it’s been two
months, and I had to make changes because,
at the end of the day, I still have
rent to pay.”
Lenis wanted to wait until it was safe to
open back up to inside dining, as he felt
his food — beautifully crafted, traditional
Peruvian dishes with a modern twist —
was meant to be enjoyed inside the vibrant
and sleek ambiance he created.
But as time went on, the 28-year-old
business owner from Jackson Heights
realized there was no specific end
date in sight. He also thought about
his team of about 15 people, who
wanted to come back to work. So on
May 15, he began offering deliveries
and adjusted the menu by adding
more options, including Peruvian
sandwiches inspired by his go-to, after
work snack he used to get from a
small food truck in Peru.
As New York’s COVID-19 numbers
decrease and the city and state begins
to reopen, Lenis isn’t sure that some
of the restrictions that have been
mentioned would allow his restaurant,
with 42 seats, to not only survive, but
“I don’t know if all restaurants will be
able to bounce back from this,” Lenis
said. “Yes, you need profit … but we put
a lot of passion and love into what we do.
And that’s what pushes us to keep going
Like Cantina 33, restaurants and bars
across the city struggled to figure out
what to do once Gov. Andrew Cuomo
passed the stay-at-home executive order
in March. Many settled for delivery
and takeout; some temporarily closed;
and others have shut their doors permanently.
But as stay-at-home orders
continued to get extended for two more
weeks — which became a month, then
two months — independent restaurants
and bar owners began to fear for their
Back in March, Queens Chamber of
Commerce President and CEO Tom
Grech said “at least 50 percent of restaurants”
that closed in Queens due to the
pandemic probably won’t reopen.
“That’s a terrible thing for livelihood …
terrible thing for Queens,” he said during
a virtual town hall.
Even now, restaurant and bar owners
are taking it day by day, uncertain of their
future. But more and more are speaking
out and calling for officials to come up
with a concrete plan with guidelines that
will let them reopen sooner rather than
later — or allow them to do it themselves.
A few weeks ago, Mayor Bill de Blasio
mentioned limiting capacity inside restaurants
By ANGÉLICA ACEVEDO
Cantina 33’s lomo
saltado dish to-go.