All 19 restaurants in the Union Square Hospitality Group, including Gramercy Tavern and Union Square Café, closed on Friday to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

By Maria Yagoda
Updated March 13, 2020
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As New York restaurants reel from decreased business and a new mandate that they can only serve guests at 50% capacity, one of the city's most influential restaurant groups has taken a drastic measure. On Friday afternoon, amid growing concerns surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, Danny Meyer announced in a statement that all 19 of his Union Square Hospitality Group restaurants would shut down indefinitely. Another new high-profile closure is Le Bernardin, which Eric Ripert announced would close for two weeks after dinner service tonight.

"With all that we now know about federal, state and citywide mandates, as well as the science that has provided evidence urging everyone to reduce nonessential social contact, we have made the difficult, but for us, obvious decision to temporarily close our restaurants in New York City,” said Meyer, who is the founder and CEO of the restaurant group. "I feel it is necessary that U.S.H.G. do our part to prevent the spread of this pandemic."

Neville Elder / Getty Images

The news comes a day after New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that restaurants seating under 500 customers would have to reduce capacity 50%, allowing for more space in between tables to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. As many restaurants have already been reeling from a sharp decline in diners, even weeks before Cuomo's mandate, closing down all operations could be the only financially viable move for many struggling businesses in the coming days.

Restaurants around the country have had to get creative to stay afloat, with many amping up delivery and take-out options to accommodate customers who just don't feel like dining out. After experiencing a 50% decrease in business, Canlis, Seattle's historic fine-dining institution, has temporarily closed its dining room; it's launching a takeaway bagel shop in the mornings, a drive-up burger place in the afternoons, and for dinner, delivery-only service.

Mark Canlis told Food & Wine that he made the pivot to save all 150 of the jobs on his team, from valets to waiters to office staff.

"There's a bunch of chefs in the city that are all having this same discussion,” he said. “I was on the phone with one team today who was just saying, 'Hey, we were trying to figure out how not to lay people off. How did you guys do this? Can we get your playbook?'"

Staffers at the Union Square group, who are now out of work with their restaurants closed, will receive pay through the end of the pay cycle.