For many, simply surviving to this point is cause for celebration.
“I feel very grateful to be in our community, because we were being rooted for,” said Kalkin Narvilas, who owns the restaurants Saggio and Uptown Garrison in Upper Manhattan. “So even if it wasn’t enough to let’s say thrive, it was enough to survive.”
Over the past two years, Mr. Narvilas has watched as restaurants that had anchored neighborhoods, and that he had looked up to, closed their doors. He and his staff leaned into creative solutions during the early days of the pandemic, he said, and worked hard to make the most tentative patron comfortable — even using a hospital grade air filter. But even so, he said, keeping up with changing rules had strained the businesses, and he welcomed the lifting of the mandate.
“We have to undo some damage, and it’s not going to be overnight,” Mr. Narvilas said. “But when are you going to start that?”
For some, the change will mean little.
Matthew Chan, who owns the Kosher Chinese restaurant Chop Chop, in the Fort George neighborhood of Manhattan, had to get creative to keep the lights on at his business, which relied heavily on Yeshiva University across the street.
He found himself scouring Facebook groups to find people seeking Kosher Chinese food in communities as far-flung as Silver Spring, Md., and Boston, a pivot he has made permanent. The mandate change has less of an impact now that he spends his days driving orders to customers all over the Northeast.
“People think I’m crazy, but I’m alive and I still can help all my family,” he said.