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Operators Slowly Recovering After Sandy, But Long-Term Concerns Remain

November 7, 2012

More than a week after the super-storm Sandy wreaked destruction in parts of New York and New Jersey, bar owners, restaurateurs and retailers are rebuilding. Some were destroyed, and others are making a slow return to normalcy.

Last Sunday, Pasanella and Son, a wine shop on South Street in lower Manhattan, held a cash-only sale to move inventory damaged in storm. “I haven’t even finished counting the money, and I stopped at $25,000,” owner Marco Pasanella said on Monday of the one-day event.

Pasanella and his staff had moved about 20,000 bottles into storage prior to the storm, but the remaining inventory in the store itself was badly damaged. Reconstruction is underway.

Silver Lining, a lounge in New York’s Tribeca neighborhood, was opening today after being shuttered for over a week. After pumping out about three feet of water on Halloween, staff and volunteers–including those from the New York chapter of the U.S. Bartender’s Guild–pitched in to clean Silver Lining.

“A group of us went with mops, power washers and bleach,” says Nicola Riske, membership chair of the guild and secretary for the national organization. “We mopped and scrubbed whatever we could. It’s scary to think that we don’t yet know the full impact, and that some might not be able to reopen.”

The Bartenders Guild has mobilized volunteers to help other impacted bars and restaurants, as well as the community at large. “We’re here and ready to help get bars open,” says the group’s president Jason Littrell.

Some venues had little or no damage, but the impact of fewer customers–exacerbated by the power outages lasting for days–was significant. Michael Neff, co-owner of Ward III in Tribeca, says his bar was unscathed by the storm. He kept the business going despite the power outage.

“We didn’t have power from Tuesday to Friday of last week, but we opened last Tuesday afternoon and we’ve been open since,” says Neff. The venue was lit by candles, and ice was shipped in from a group of Brooklyn bars. “We had limited offerings, but people really needed a place to go,” Neff says. While business wasn’t booming during those dark nights, “our customers were very appreciative,” he adds.

Longer term, there are concerns in some neighborhoods that business will be slow to come back. Pasanella, for example, is committed to rebuilding, but he worries about the future.

“We’ll be hobbling for quite a while,” Pasanella says. “There are the core residents who buy the nightly bottle and there are the big fish–businesses that buy large quantities of wine for gift giving and events. Both are gone. We’ve got a short-term problem that we’re solving, but a long term one that’s kind of scary. How do you run a business when there’s nobody around?”

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