Restaurants starving as diners disappear during coronavirus crisis

As coronavirus continues to slam New York City’s restaurants, owners looking to save on payroll costs are opening later, closing earlier — and thinking about closing altogether.

Jeremy Merrin, who operates the city’s Havana Central chain of Cuban eateries, says he will decide this weekend whether to temporarily close them, including a location in Times Square, as business has dropped 50 percent in recent weeks.

“I’ve lost over $100,000 in catering and events through August, business that I won’t make up again,” Merrin told The Post. “The biggest question right now is whether I stay open or close to preserve my cash.”

On Thursday, New York City banned all gatherings of more than 500 people and required venues that hold less than 500 people — including restaurants and bars — to slash their occupancy by 50 percent.

“There is a distinct possibility that it won’t be a problem for anyone to comply with either edict next week,” said one restaurateur who asked not to be named, referring to the falloff in business.

Restaurant trade groups, meanwhile, are pushing the government to provide relief, including rent subsidies, no-interest loans, 90-day extensions on monthly sales tax payments and eliminating penalties for paying property taxes late.

Dallas BBQ, which operates 10 rib joints in the city, lost more than 20 private events through May, said co-owner Greg Wetanson. Those events of up to 100 attendees were all nixed over the past couple of weeks. “That’s a tremendous hit, and we are bracing for more of it,” he added.

To mitigate the losses, the family-owned business is slashing labor costs by 50 percent, scheduling fewer workers and cutting their hours.

LDV Hospitality, which owns 26 restaurants in nine cities, has eliminated breakfast service at Scarpetta — an upscale Italian restaurant at The James Hotel — and is considering doing so at the six other Scarpetta eateries.

“We cut out 4.5 hours of operating costs by getting rid of breakfast,” LDV President John Meadow said. “Many of my employees live paycheck to paycheck. We haven’t laid off anyone nor do we intend to.”

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