NYC’s summer iteration of Restaurant Week is in full swing but a crucial part of the City has been neglected. There are more than 400 restaurants listed in Manhattan, but not a single one is located in Washington Heights.
There is only one restaurant listed under Washington Heights on the city’s website, but it is actually located in Inwood.
NYC & Company, which is responsible for getting restaurants to participate, says they worked with local community boards and the Washington Heights Business Improvement District to conduct community outreach and get restaurants into the program.
Washington Heights is known as “Little Dominican Republic” due to a large influx of Dominicans living in the area. NYC & Company did provide a Spanish version of the flyer and offered pre-recorded sessions in Spanish on how to register and what it means to participate.
The community has received special recognition in recent weeks for the release of the movie version of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hit Broadway musical “In the Heights.” A public premiere of the flick was even held in the neighborhood.
Still, the Heights were shut out of Restaurant Week.
“We would love to have more Washington Heights restaurants in the program in the future,” said a spokesperson for NYC & Company.
They also say that the restaurant Terravita is signed up to participate during weeks 3 and 4 of Restaurant week. The restaurant is located in Washington Heights.
Restaurants are required to offer a fixed menu at the price of $21 or $39 per person. Some restaurants will also offer three courses for $125 per person.
The eateries, however, aren’t selected. Instead, the owners are required to sign their restaurants up themselves. Restaurants that want to participate in the future are encouraged to reach out to NYC & Company.
Executive Director of the Washington Heights Business Improvement District Isidro Medina thinks that restaurants in the area didn’t feel it was worth changing their menus for Restaurant Week. He also says they were contacted by NYC & Company and he provided them with references for restaurants in the neighborhood.
Some restaurants didn’t participate because they felt like they didn’t have the proper orders or specials,” said Medina. “The fact we don’t have one restaurant in the Heights, I am concerned but proper outreach was done.”
Eleazar Bueno, who is the chair of Manhattan’s Community Board 12 which covers Washington Heights, says the NYC & Company did contact restaurants, but it was done far too late.
“We did our best to outreach as much as we could but by the time that the restaurants were reached, it was a little late,” said Bueno. “What we need is more outreach and more time in order to reach as many restaurants as we can.”
Bueno also says that the pandemic had an effect on the lack of Washington Heights restaurants participating in the program.
“We are in the middle of a pandemic. A good percentage of our restaurants are closed and those who are not, are not open until after 5 or 6 p.m.,” said Bueno.
Bocaditos Bistros owner Victor Santos says that he was contacted late. He also says the way Restaurant Week is advertised has made restaurants located uptown feel as though it is not meant for them, but instead for restaurants downtown.
“A lot of the people from uptown see it as more for downtown than it is for uptown so they decide not to join because it defeats the purpose like I’m going to join something that is not going to bring me any business,” Santos said. “It’s not that they aren’t offering us to be in it, it’s that we do not see the same publicity being done for uptown.”
Santos says his restaurant was a part of restaurant week a couple of years ago and says it did not help his business.
“I sold zero. I joined it and I didn’t sell one,” said Santos. “I just think if they are going to include uptown, they should focus a lot on advertising it in uptown as well.”
Restaurant Week began on July 19 and will last five weeks.
This story appears courtesy of our sister publication amNewYork.