Like so many places across the country, the past several months have been challenging and unpredictable for our community. That’s why we wanted to do something special to spotlight the amazing people that make up our unique district.
Faces Of East Midtown is photo and interview series aimed at celebrating the humanity of our neighborhood and providing a real, raw and honest look at the faces behind the locally-owned businesses that have gone through unimaginable changes amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
East Midtown Partnership: Tell us about your business or place of work. When did you originally open or start and what was your vision?
Noel Donovan: We finally opened the doors of Blooms Tavern in October 2013. The planning, construction, marketing, and all-round head scratching is another story. That started approximately twelve months before that. We wanted to create a comfortable, unassuming “Tavern-Style” environment so we set about transforming a restaurant, which had closed for some time, into what is now Bloom’s. It was a huge project. We had to completely remodel two entire floors, adding two new bar areas. A full new interior, a new balcony and façade. It is a completely different style to previous establishments that were housed here.
EMP: Give us an overview of what things have been like for you and your staff during the Covid-19 lockdown.
ND: It has been an incredible shock for all us really, to experience a city so vast as New York to just shut down. From initially being so excited about our busiest day of the year, St. Patrick’s Day back in March, to a day later trying to figure out all the government red-tape associated with operating a business throughout Covid. It was just exhausting. We immediately got set up and made sure we followed strict guidelines so that our families and friends did not get infected. It is certainly a devastating time to experience living in NYC.
EMP: When did you reopen, and how did/does it feel to reopen your doors to the district?
ND: We decided to stay open throughout the pandemic. Last year we created a virtual restaurant called “Southern Chick” and invested heavily to develop our online delivery presence. So with delivery business not only from Blooms Tavern, but from Southern Chick too, we found a way to scrape by during the initial scary months of the pandemic. The safety of our amazing team was always our top priority and together we worked hard and figured out a way to survive on a few catering deals and neighborhood delivery.
EMP: After being shuttered for months, several more businesses are slowly starting to reopen in the district. What does that mean to you?
ND: It is amazing and reassuring to see so many businesses back open. The more restaurants opening the better, everyone has done a terrific job. We have all learned to figure out the challenges of sticking tables on a neighbor’s patch of sidewalk to convincing guests the rainstorm isn’t that bad while becoming master gardeners and designers, deciding what plants and shrubs to put where, and so on.
EMP: What's one thing you've either learned, grown to appreciate or adjusted in your business practices moving forward as a result of the pandemic?
ND: I have learned to be humbler and more patient. We have to help each other during times of crisis. We will find a vaccine and therefore hopefully a solution. I wish it were that simple. Hmm, well at least my gardening skill have vastly improved!
EMP: What is your hope for the future of your industry in the city in the coming months?
ND: It is devastating to see so many places closed. The 25% occupancy rate starting September 30th is too small and counterproductive. Sadly, this will result in a more expensive dining experience. I hope the Government can see the damage they are doing to people’s livelihoods. I feel we should give guests the choice if they are comfortable dining indoors or not.
EMP: Any other thoughts you want people to know as they venture out into the neighborhood?
ND: 95% of our neighbors have been amazing and highly generous during this difficult time. Most definitely the best people in the world. Sadly the remaining 5% addicted to calling 311 need a new hobby.