66-year-old East Village restaurant Veselka shares its COVID struggles
After closing in March, Veselka reopened for takeout and delivery at the end of April, and both their main location and their secondary spot in the Market Line food hall are open for outdoor dining. But like so many others across the city, the 66-year-old Ukrainian restaurant is struggling without indoor dining. In a video interview with photographers James and Karla Murray, second-generation co-owner Tom Birchard said, “We need to have more tables than we have right now to survive long-term.”
Pre-pandemic, Veselka was making 21,000 pierogis, 2,500 latkes, and 110 gallons of borscht each week. Compared to other businesses, the restaurant is lucky in terms of outdoor dining because of its corner location. But as Tom explains, “If we were totally closed, we’d be losing more money, but doing this, we’re losing money.” Veselka has also had to forego the 24-hour service they’re famous for; the restaurant is now open every day at 9am, closing at either 9pm, 10pm, or 11pm.
Tom’s son Jason, the third-generation co-owner, agrees with the sentiment felt across the restaurant industry that both Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio have not provided any guidance as to when indoor dining may resume. “The Unknown of when indoor dining is going to open is disconcerting to me,” he told James and Karla.
An easy way to support Veselka is to, of course, dine there or get takeout. For the latter, when you order directly from Veselka.com or through the Toast app you’ll save $5 off your first order of $25 or more.
Fellow historic East Village eateries Russo’s and Veniero’s are also having a hard time during the pandemic. Learn more about all of these small businesses in James and Karla’s video here: