The phrase “the city that never sleeps” has never rung less true than during the pandemic, particularly during the early stages, when NYC was the epicenter of the crisis. But even while it appeared to be in a deep slumber, I liked to think of it as just dozing. Resting. And, this being New York, I was never in any doubt that it would wake from its slumbers. It is the city that never surrenders.
Just as we saw after 9/11 and Hurricane Sandy, this is a place in which people really step up in times of crisis. Even in normal times, in six years of living here I have discovered nothing but kindness in a city in which people really do look out for each other.
I have never come across the alleged rudeness of New Yorkers; step off London’s Heathrow Express at Paddington Station after landing in the UK – you’ll meet more rudeness in minutes than in a year of being in NYC.
Broadway is dead and, as a result, the surrounding bars and restaurants are suffering big time, too (and it’s not just in the city). Constricted to outdoor dining while the rest of the state enjoys indoor hospitality at 50% capacity, it’s a struggle to attract customers as the East Coast temperatures plummet.
And yet… and yet… owners have not only stepped up to the mark but well over it.
Take my local hostelry, Hold Fast. Smack bang in the middle of theatreland on 46th and 9th, it was opened in 2017 by business partners Shane Hathaway and Jason Clark, and is a regular haunt not just for theatre goers but locals.
It responded quickly to takeaway menus, including themed cocktails relating to the crisis (I particularly liked one named after the New York State Governor, Andrew Cuomo – an Andrew Cuom-Old Fashioned, New York Tough).
When indoor dining briefly resumed last year, I had my birthday dinner there. They have a good choice of wines (including excellent European ones – highly unusual in NYC), and the food menu is ever-expanding and changing.
My current favorites are the burrata in a tomato sauce, and the three-bean chilli (it is compulsory to order food with drinks in New York).
They have transformed their outdoor space into a safe, socially distanced dining area, complete with screens separating tables, and heaters. Even in January, it is surprisingly comfortable.
Now, they have launched the most extraordinary initiative to help artists, over 50% of whom found themselves out of work when the entertainment industry shut down.
It’s called Hold Fast to the Arts and asks people to support the performing arts by sponsoring an eligible individual’s dining experience at the restaurant.
Brilliant. With a minimum $40 sponsorship, it ensures not only the chance to eat out for those struggling financially but sends them a message that people really care and that they remain a part of the community, even though they are unable to perform.
We are holding fast in a time of crisis.
You can read more at holdfastnyc.com/holdfasttothearts and, if you’re in the area, do pop by. It is the most welcoming place in the city, and the creativity with which Jason, Shane and their incredible, hard-working and committed staff have adapted their skills (Shane is also a fabulous photographer and has taken some incredible shots in this bizarrely transformed environment) is both admirable and heart-warming.
If you can contribute something, great; if you are in need and would like to be a recipient of a meal, don’t be too proud to say so. All details are on the website.
We’re all in this together.