It goes without saying that these last two weeks have been tumultuous for the country and the real estate industry. As the real estate industry braces for the market and financial forces in front of it, we wanted to reach out to some of our seasoned clients to get their thoughts on what’s ahead for restaurant, bars and placemaking retail moving forward along the waterfront. Mike Dorrian, is the proprietor of Dorrian’s, an iconic bar and restaurant on Washington Blvd in Newport along the Jersey City waterfront. Mike is a third-generation restaurateur. Dorrian’s Red Hand started in 1960 on the Upper West Side and has been a fixture in Manhattan for decades. In 2001, Dorrian’s expanded into Jersey City with the son of the founder, Mike Dorrian, opening up on Washington Street in Newport. ( https://dorrians-jc.com) Moreover, Mike recently expanded his Jersey City footprint with the purchase of LITM-bar and restaurant along the Jersey City pedestrian plaza on Newark Ave. Mike’s comments and reflections below mirror many of our restaurant and bar clients during these difficult times. We think Mike’s comments are an important insight into what is occurring in real-time in our market.
Question 1: How are you fairing since the mandated closing in March?
It has not been easy. Since the shutdown in March, we have completely shut down our business. We have cut back all services except phone, and electric.
Question 2: How do you see the future of placemaking retail and foodservice going forward?
We will look to our customers for guidance on placemaking, table distancing, bar stool placement and all-around new personal space distancing will be determined by our customers’ comfort level. I believe it will take many months before we move back to what we were comfortable with in regard to personal space. I believe tables per square foot will have to be reduced. I also think it will be quite a while before companies feel comfortable hosting cocktail parties to promote team building. We going to be looking at a “new” normal and what that looks like, will be dictated to us by our customers and the market place.
Question 3: What kind of help do you need going forward?
The number one thing we will need going forward is rent relief, and a loan to help with cash flow. When we reopen it will be as if we were opening new. I believe all purveyors will be C.O.D. to start, maybe for six to ten weeks. We will need to reestablish credit.
We don’t know what our new business model will look like, or how quickly it will come back if it comes back at all. We must approach this as a whole new business. How we made future sales projections before Covid -19 will be discarded. As I look at my current restaurant and try to calculate future projections, what staff we will need, what my price point will be and will people gather at the same frequency, I can only guess. We will ramp up as if it is business as usual but, this will be an ever-changing landscape, we hope to bring staff back as if it is business as usual. My landlord will have to understand rent has to be adjusted going forward, they should look at it as if it were a new business and we need some runway to help us take off.
Question 4: Where do you think we will be a year from now?
Where do I think we will be in one year from now is unanswerable until we know how long the shutdown will last. The longer the shutdown goes the worse it will be. Savings will be depleted and personal dept. will mount. Dining out will look more like the 1930s than 2019, restaurants will go back to being a luxury, not an amenity. Work from home might be the norm and not the exception if you own a business in a financial district, or office park it’s going to be a difficult time.