Riverdale Local Businesses Cope With COVID-19 Pandemic

by, Kelly Kennedy & Lauren Schuster, Asst. Production Editor & Senior Writer

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Manhattan College along with universities across the country have shut their doors. An early campus evacuation leaves the surrounding neighborhood of Riverdale quiet, where it was once busy with thousands of MC students. And with new social distancing laws in place, quiet may just be an understatement. Desperate times call for desperate measures, as businesses deemed non-essential are forced to close and citizens are urged to stay at least 6 feet apart at all times. 

Local businesses suffer due to lost revenue, and MC students are left wondering what will happen to their favorite delis, pizza shops, and Friday night spots. 

Essential businesses are allowed to stay open, but must enforce strict social distancing laws as “New York State on Pause” was put into place March 22. According to the message displayed on the official New York State government website, “All non-essential workers are directed to work from home, and everyone is required to wear a face covering and maintain a 6-foot distance from others in public.”

As of current policy, these laws will be in place until at least May 15. Although it is expected that these laws will be extended and social distancing will be enforced for much longer due to the current state of New York. 

This means many businesses around MC campus have been forced to close for now, including Fenwick’s Bar & Grill, ILiV Cycling, and Davey Cuts.

Essential businesses in the area which have remained open have been forced to make many changes to how they would normally operate. 

Fontenova Tapas is a Mexican-style restaurant and bar located near campus which has become a popular hang-out spot for students. They have remained open but switched to focusing on takeout.

“Our normal week started coming up with taco Tuesday and the weekends where we saw most of our crowd come and enjoy our delicious paellas and tacos,” said Mordecai Morales, the acting manager. “After the pandemic started – COVID-19 – we had to close our doors for our community, but we are still open for delivery and carry out. We have signs on our door steps  and we still are welcoming our community to come and order takeout and our famous margaritas.”

They have also reduced their hours. 

“We used to be open from Tuesday till Sunday from 3 pm til 2am,” Morales said. “Now we’re open everyday for delivery and carryout till 11pm for delivery and until 8pm for carryout.”

Another popular bar for MC students is An Beal Bocht Cafe. This place used to be busy all weekend, but now they too have had to make many changes because of COVID-19. 

“When Manhattan cancelled classes before spring break we noticed less MC students coming in, but the ones that were around for a few more days were definitely coming in,” Keith McDermot of An Beal Bocht said. “The night the bars were to close was very busy because people wanted to have a last hurrah, but that was when MC students were already on break. It’s tough to foresee what the future will be like when we’re able to reopen. We have a lot of MC students that patronize An Beal Bocht, but they’re not the majority of our customers.”

While MC students are not the majority of customers, McDermot says they’re definitely a part of the fabric of the community.

“That being said, their lack of presence will be felt, because they’re not just customers but part of the neighborhood and community we have around the bar,” he said.

Manhattan College students are consistent customers at many of these venues, and their disappearance is enough to cause a dent in the Riverdale community. Social distancing laws closing New York for the time being just adds to the lost sense of community. 

For now it appears things won’t be changing for some time, which will sadly postpone An Beal’s plans to continue their fundraiser for the Purple Hat Foundation. 

“We have done a fundraiser at An Beal Bocht every year, for the past 10 years, I believe, for the Purple Hat Foundation,” McDermot said. “It is a charity that raises money for Musicians on Call, which coordinates musicians to go play for sick children in hospitals.  The founder Jermey bar-Ilan’s son had passed away from cancer as a teenager and in his memory he has been very active raising money for cancer research and Musicians on Call.”

This music event is something many MC students look forward to each year.

 “The fundraiser was an all day music event, which featured 20+ musical acts, from solo performance to bands,” he said. “The bands donated their time and the purple hat was passed to collect donations.  Unfortunately it was scheduled to take place while we’re forced to close so we’re not sure when we’ll be able to host it, but once we have a better understanding we will reschedule.”

Even though the event is currently postponed, they will still be collecting donations. 

“There was a GoFundMe set up to raise money to help the staff at An Beal while we are out of work,” McDermot  said. “It was closed so the funds could be divided out, but there was talk of starting a new one.  We’ve already seen a humongous outpouring of generosity so I wouldn’t ask MC Students to contribute.  The best thing for MC Students to do is re-patronize An Beal when we’re able to open up again.”

Since it is unknown when they will be able to reopen, managers know every dollar counts.  

“We are taking orders at Fontenova Tapas 718.618.7133 and for questions or concerns  please call us at 347.666.1931 or at 347.236.8214 and online ordering @uber eats @grubhub,” Morales said.

While the restaurants may be missing their customers, McDermot feels the priority is staying safe.

“Clearly safety is everyone’s priority now but we cannot wait to get back to work and see all the wonderful people that make An Beal the place it is,” McDermot said. “We look forward to seeing the MC Students when school is back in session!”