More than ever before, restaurant owners are at the mercy of Mother Nature.

Restricted to outdoor dining because of coronavirus concerns, a storm is more than just an inconvenience. The heavy rain and strong winds forecast for Tuesday will come at a cost for the owner and founder of the coffee shop chain Cocoa Grinder.

“All the tents that we put up, we would have to hire people again to come by, uninstall it, put it inside, and then Wednesday morning they would have to come and install it again,” Abdul Elenani said. “That’s an added expense on restaurants.”

He estimates this will cost him several thousands of dollars. Cocoa Grinder alone has seven locations, and at about $500 to $600 a pop, costs can add up. Elenani is also the entrepreneur behind several other spots in Bay Ridge.

He has also has to consider lost revenue. On a rainy day, he says, Cocoa Grinder will only bring in about 10 percent of what it does on a good day. With those profits, it may not make sense to open up Tuesday.

“We are thinking of closing since everything is outdoor right now,” Elenani said. “Our eatery has to be done outside.”

Antonio Bellini, the manager at Leo’s across the street, says it isn’t just storms that can cause a slump in sales. He maintains that on really hot or humid days, they might lose business just the same. July 2020 ranked as one of the top ten hottest Julys on record in the city. There were also two heat waves — and a total of 14 days — last month with temperatures in the 90s.

“When its hot outside, of course people don’t like to stay outside,” Bellini said. “During the daytime, you want to be in the air conditioning.”

The concept isn’t lost on customers. Some told NY1 when it rains they try to order in, and when the weather cooperates they come to eat outside.

“We understand that financially it’s really, really difficult for them,,” one customer said. “So, again, we are out here to support whenever we can.”

Removing all outdoor furniture is not optional. In fact, the city's transportation department requires it for all participants in the city's Open Restaurants Program. The only thing they can leave in the street are ramps and platforms, and they all have to be weighed down.


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