Is New York still a 24-hour town?

If you see “Moulin Rouge” on Broadway on a Thursday at 8 p.m. and get out of the theater after 10:30, definitely do not take the train down to Wo Hop expecting to get some 11 p.m. lo mein. The subway is back to running all night, but the Chinatown institution that was once open 24 hours now closes at 10 p.m.
L’Express, a French-ish bistro on Park Avenue South, has a sign outside that reads “Ouvert 24 Hrs.,” but these days it closes at 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday and 11 p.m. the rest of the week.
Cafeteria in Chelsea, the sleekly designed comfort food space formerly open all day and night, now calls it quits at 1 a.m. Whitestone Lanes, a bowling alley in Queens, used to be 24 hours but now shuts its doors at 1 or 2 a.m. And there’s a 24 Hour Fitness in Kew Gardens that closes at 10 p.m.
As New York recovers from the global pandemic, one may wonder whether its reputation as a 24-hour town is in jeopardy.

The reasons for the early closings vary: Some businesses grew weary of the drunken clientele in the wee hours. Some worried about the safety of their staff commuting home. Some scaled back during the pandemic and have not yet resumed round-the-clock hours. And many restaurants still report difficulty in finding enough help, even amid signs of improvement.

While the rest of the country has regained all of the jobs it lost during the pandemic, New York City is bouncing back more slowly. Many hotel and restaurant jobs have disappeared because fewer people are visiting the city or dining out, and the jobs that remain are often the hardest to fill, offering late-night shifts and relatively low pay.

In 1978, when Frank Sinatra — who was known to be a late-night fixture at spots like P.J. Clarke’s and Jilly’s — sang “New York, New York,” he wanted to “wake up in the city that never sleeps.” The nickname stuck. But now, New Yorkers accustomed to a city whose machinery churns until dawn are finding themselves disoriented by adjusted closing hours. Want a bite after last call at the bar? Sure, your bodega may be open. But you may not be able to sit down at your old standby.

A recent night out found startled customers all over the city grappling with scaled-back accommodations at formerly up-all-night institutions — as well as ample evidence that the very-late-night nibbles in New York have morphed and moved but not entirely disappeared.

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Post time: Sep-23-2022