Like most eateries Downtown, Bombay’s Indian Restaurant (60 Pearl Street) typically relies on a steady stream of foot traffic from nearby office buildings to keep business booming. But with most companies still largely reliant on remote workforces as a result of COVID-19, making ends meet in the pandemic has been a challenge.
“When the weather was good we were doing okay, but now that it’s gotten cold and cases are on the rise again, nobody wants to sit outside, and people are still very skeptical to come sit inside and eat,” owner Sonal Vyas told the Downtown Alliance. “It’s getting difficult.”
With Lower Manhattan emptier than usual and the lunch crowd — which typically comprises around 80% of Bombay’s business — largely absent, the restaurant has done an elegant job of adapting to the strange circumstances, offering no-contact pickup and delivery, sanitizing tables between each use and setting up a makeshift curbside seating area for customers still wary of indoor dining.
Though Bombay’s has a small menu, Vyas said that the staff works hard to ensure that all its offerings are delicious and made with lots of love — and it’s also reasonably priced for the neighborhood.
But according to Vyas, the dwindling number of people lining up for crispy samosas and chicken tikka appetizers — tender pieces of chicken marinated in yogurt and spices — has meant that the restaurant has had to carefully weigh whether or not it can afford the cost of constructing an enclosed seating area for the winter months.
With low prices and decreased foot traffic comes tough profit margins, after all, and many small and medium-size businesses were already struggling to satisfy their outlandish New York City rent requirements before the pandemic was even underway. Although Vyas said that Bombay’s landlord has been reasonable so far, “We’re going to talk to them again soon and we’ll have to see. If they don’t make any adjustments for us, it’s going to be too difficult for us to survive.”
“We’re just waiting for that lunch crowd to come back, and I don’t know if that’s ever going to happen with the way the situation is turning out to be, honestly,” Vyas added. “It’s a little bit scary for us now.”