Last winter, shortly after reopening in a new location at Hudson River Park’s Pier 57, City Winery started a pilot program requiring customers who were dining indoors to take an on-site rapid COVID test, becoming the first in the city to do so. They partnered with Accurex Diagnostic Services to administer the exams, and diners had to prepay for the $50 tests on Resy in order to make a reservation. (City Winery says they were being charged $57 for each test.)

Michael Dorf, founder & CEO of City Winery, told WNYC/Gothamist the strategy seemed to be working in the fall of 2020 – six weeks before Governor Andrew Cuomo shut down indoor dining in the city.

Things seemed to be stabilizing last summer and fall until omicron hit. Now they’ve been limping along for the last month, “with half of our staff having gotten sick at one point, and the musicians getting sick and having to cancel shows.”

“I feel like Bugs Bunny where a giant safe just falls from the sky on your head and you think you just got cleared of the last falling safe, and boom, another one hits you in the head,” Dorf said.

Along with updating their COVID policies in response to the latest surge, requiring a negative test and proof of vaccination before entering, Dorf had the foresight to order 5,000 BinaxNOW rapid tests directly from Abbott Laboratories to provide for City Winery staffs around the country (there are eight venues mostly located on the East Coast).

At $15 a pop, he spent around $75,000 out of his own pocket to do this. But instead of going to the various locations, the entire shipment ended up coming to NYC. With the surge underway, Dorf started offering them to Manhattan patrons for free.

“I had three or four different club owners and new owners reach out to me when they saw our policy, and wanted to know where we bought our tests,” he said. “I told everyone I was really lucky, I had ordered them two months before. They all came to New York, and then omicron hits, so I was able to have a big supply in New York.”

He thinks that if the rapid tests were more widely available, more businesses would be doing what he did and offer them to customers.

“I look at it exactly the way I do exit signs and emergency lights and sprinkler systems — these are our tools to keep people safe, and our job in [this] business is to keep people safe,” he said. “The more they feel comfortable, the more homey, more a better vibe, then they’ll hopefully spend more time drinking and eating and in my house rather than staying home.”

(this story/news/article has not been edited by PostX News staff and is published from a syndicated feed)

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