So many states and cities have shut down indoor dining and outdoor dining in an attempt to curb this damn virus, and restaurants are doing what they can to get by. In yet another way to get past prohibitive dining rules, restaurants are turning empty hotel rooms (another casualty of the pandemic) into private dining spaces.
Bloomberg reports on the pivot. One restaurant in Philadelphia, the Walnut Street Cafe, is using empty rooms 23 floors above the restaurant to serve guests, which management has dubbed the “Walnut Suite Cafe.” A three-course dinner runs $65 per person, plus a $50 fee to hang onto the room for three hours. Guests have to follow standard COVID precautions such as wearing a mask in public spaces while moving around on the property. If guests plan on staying the night, the $50 goes towards their stay.
Le Crocodile in Brooklyn was an early adopter of the model, starting in late October. Thirteen rooms are available with $100 three-course meals for parties of four to 10 people. And apparently this arrangement is really popular. “There’s a lot of demand,” Jon Neidich, owner of the restaurant. “On the weekends, we’re often fully booked.”
Other restaurants in Minneapolis and Boston are following suit, moving or removing furniture to accommodate for tables and chairs. Customers are apparently paying well, too.
Neidich says, “They order more, a nicer bottle of wine,” he says. “The check averages are higher. That means people are enjoying themselves.” People are really aching for their restaurant experiences, but there’s no word on whether or not these have been a source of spread.
Still, in my mind, this feels just as dicey as those enclosed outdoor tents that also function as dining rooms, especially because these are literally just hotel rooms with people lingering for hours.