No restaurant in New York City is immune to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, with even restauranteur David Chang’s acclaimed Momofuku empire affected. The company announced that its restaurant Nishi in Chelsea will not reopen and Momofuku Ssäm Bar in the East Village will move to Bar Wayo at South Street Seaport to consolidate the teams. Momofuku CCDC in Washington D.C. will also permanently close, in light of COVID-19.
View this post on Instagram
Really hard day. Closing @momolongplay Nishi and CCDC and moving Ssäm Bar. Agonized over a million possible scenarios… at the end of the day this was the only viable option. Can’t stop thinking about the blood sweat and tears that everybody put into these restaurants over the years. All I know is that we cannot let our industry or our people be this vulnerable ever again…. going to do everything I can to help build a safe, better future for all of us. To start, I spoke with momo ceo @mzmariscal about the closures and what we’re doing to take care of our teams, as well as the great chefs @ericbost and @lincolncarson about their own decisions to close and what they think is coming next. Our raw conversations are on @davechangshow today. ❤️dc
In an Instagram post published on Wednesday, Chang said he “agonized over a million possible scenarios” to keep his restaurants open, but there was no viable solution.
“Can’t stop thinking about the blood sweat and tears that everybody put into these restaurants over the years,” he wrote in the post. “All I know is that we cannot let our industry or our people be this vulnerable ever again…. going to do everything I can to help build a safe, better future for all of us.”
According to the restaurant group, profit margins were thin for both Nishi and CCDC, which both underwent renovations and menu changes in hopes becoming more profitable. “This crisis has exposed the underlying vulnerabilities of our industry and made clear that returning to normal is not an option,” Momofuku’s CEO, Marguerite Zabar Mariscal, wrote in an update. “For our industry to have a future, we must do nothing less than rethink how restaurants operate.”
In a conversation with Mariscal on his podcast, “The David Chang Show,” Chang said an agreement could not be reached with landlords to stay open, as Eater NY reported. “I don’t want to say anything other than I understand their decisions, I don’t respect their decisions,” Chang said on the podcast, referring to the negotiation with the landlords.
“Maybe if I was in their situation I’d see it a bit differently. There’s no give and take. I’m still at war with this decision. It’s not ever going to sit right with me.”
In a March interview with the New York Times, Chang warned “there will be no service industry whatsoever” after the pandemic without government help. In a tweet on Thursday, Chang wrote: “The government is treating independent restaurants like we are Lehman brothers in 2008. Don’t let them have their way.”
Momofuku’s New York restaurants that remain include the Noodle Bar in the East Village and at the Time Warner Center, Kāwi in Hudson Yards, and Ko in the East Village. The company said it hopes to hire Nishi team members at its other New York restaurants. Employees will also be able to receive some support from the Momofuku Bluetape Fund, healthcare for “as long as financially possible,” and counseling resources through its Employee Assitance Program.
- These maps and apps tell you which businesses are open in your NYC neighborhood
- NYC restaurants hope to reopen with outdoor seating on closed streets
- Coogan’s in Washington Heights closes after 35 years