Edward Scissorhands regularly greets masked patrons at the Tim Burton-inspired Beetle House in Manhattan’s East Village. But the true scare for the theme bar’s owner is the new 10 pm curfew ordered by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office on New York restaurants and bars is crippling to the business.

“It’s nonsense. It’s really nonsense,” Zach Neil told Cheddar on Monday. “A curfew isn’t rooted in science. A curfew is politics and those politics turn my staff into the working poor.”

Neil created Beetle House as a pop-up restaurant in April of 2016 and after three years of impressive demand, it became a permanent establishment. Under current restrictions, Neil says Beetle House’s business model just doesn’t work and he’d rather be closed and receive aid than have his hours of operation limited.

“If it’s not safe enough to be open, then close us,” Neil said. “Come with your checkbook and close our business down and provide some sort of subsidy so that we can survive.”

With the limited hours, employees of Beetle House have to spread their shifts throughout the week, making them ineligible for unemployment benefits.

According to New York Department of Labor’s FAQs related to unemployment benefits, New Yorkers can only receive partial benefits if they “work less than four days a week and earn $504/week or less.”

“As we all know, the virus doesn’t get more contagious after a certain time of day,” Neil said. 

Also, he noted, “Two to three hours a day is a lot of money for someone who’s working and living paycheck-to-paycheck.”

Beetle House was able to reopen in October, after closing for seven straight months, thanks to funding from the Paycheck Protection Program. But Neil says the 10 pm curfew is choking his business that already limits capacity to 37 customers.

“It means that our last reservation would have to be at 8:45 at night... in order to have people out by 10 o’clock,” Neil said. “We open at four in the afternoon. It’s just not enough service time to make it work.”

Despite the difficulties and sanitation costs that add up to $1,700 a week, according to Neil, business hasn’t slowed down for Beetle House at all.

“We are constantly [keeping] waiting lists of more than 100 to 200,” Neil said. “There's zero percent slowdown in interest in coming to dine.”

While the prior lockdown meant that the highly-designed Beetle House location couldn’t be open, Neil pivoted to food delivery with Pop Shop Kitchen, which pairs three-course meals with virtual experiences. The venture’s first Kill Bill-themed box featured “pan-seared tuna with a side of Japanese cold noodles and pear cobbler with ice cream,” coupled with a free online martial arts lesson.

Neil says he understands taking precautions like contact tracing and limited capacity, and even would even support a broader shutdown, but believes curfews intended to curb the spread of COVID-19 are not based in fact.

“There’s just no science to support a curfew,” Neil said. “They’re just another way to cripple an industry that’s already been deeply, deeply burdened by this.”

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