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COVID-19 surge steals Christmas from battered NYC stores and restaurants




COVID-19 surge steals Christmas from battered NYC stores and restaurants

The surging Omicron variant is emerging as the Grinch who stole Christmas from Big Apple stores and restaurants that were counting on the holiday season to help them rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Over the weekend, we didn’t have as many people in coming as we usually do Christmas season,” a worker at Saks Fifth Avenue said Wednesday.

“Our customers are getting omicron instead of buying a Dior bag.”

During the afternoon, about 40 people were checking out the famed department store’s iconic Christmas-themed window displays — while 25 others were lined up across the street to get tested for the coronavirus.

Restaurant owners are especially worried that the surge in new coronavirus cases — which Wednesday hit a record, statewide high of 28,924 — will wind up putting a fork in their businesses.

“I’ve lost over 50 percent of my reservations. Maybe even more. So the revenue loss is at least 50 percent,” lamented Domenic Sacramone, owner of Sac’s Place in Astoria, Queens.

“It started hitting us last Thursday. Some are big reservations — parties of 11, parties of seven.”

Queens restaurant owner Domenic Sacramone fears he’s lost “at least 50 percent” of his business revenue due to canceled reservations.
Daniel William McKnight

Sacramone said that “it’s like a three-tier situation going on.”

“One, people are scared and they are canceling their reservations. Two, people have either been exposed or someone in their party has gotten sick,” he said.

“The third reason is people are traveling this Christmas and they don’t want to ruin their Christmas plans. So they aren’t going out.”

People line up for PCR and Rapid Antigen COVID-19 coronavirus tests on Wall Street in the Financial District of Manhattan in New York City on Thursday, December 16, 2021.
New Yorkers line up for PCR and rapid COVID-19 tests on Wall Street on Dec. 16, 2021.
AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey

Data compiled by the online OpenTable reservation company showed the total number of people eating at city restaurants that use its service fell by nearly 60 percent on Monday and Tuesday, compared to the same days in 2019 before the pandemic hit.

Cancellations galore

The grim statistics came after two days of smaller declines — 32 percent on Saturday and 38 percent on Sunday — that followed Friday’s announcement that a then-record 21,027 New Yorkers had tested positive for COVID-19.

The OpenTable website on a mobile phone arranged in Dobbs Ferry, New York, U.S., on Saturday, May 1, 2021.
OpenTable, an online reservation company, reports that Big Apples restaurants have lost more than 50 percent of patrons this week.
Bloomberg via Getty Images

Andrew Rigie of the New York City Hospitality Alliance said he heard from one restaurant owner who said holiday receipts were down by a crushing 60 percent.

“All types of restaurants have been impacted. Corporate parties have been canceled, friends and family have canceled their reservations and it couldn’t have come at a worse time,” he said.

Follow the latest news on the Omicron variant with the New York Post’s live coverage

“Usually, this is a time when they make more money and pay off debt. But all the canceled reservations are just a gut punch — it makes it tough.”

A manager at the celebrity-favored Balthazar French restaurant in Manhattan’s Soho neighborhood said between 15 and 20 reservations had been canceled “per day over the past week.

Sophie’s Cuban Cuisine on 96 Chambers St., Manhattan has closed due to dwindling customers.
Sophie’s Cuban Cuisine on 96 Chambers St., Manhattan has closed due to dwindling customers.
Gabriella Bass
A young child looks at the holiday window display at Saks Fifth Avenue department store in New York, NY, December 17, 2021.
The famed Saks Fifth Avenue department store has received less in-person traffic as New Yorkers line up for nearby COVID-19 testing sites.
Anthony Behar/Sipa USA

At the Italian restaurant Carbone in Greenwich Village — where tables are so hard to come by that the New Yorker magazine recently published a “how-to” article — a waiter said, “People are canceling reservations booked months ago.”

In addition to the numerous no-shows, many restaurants are coping with staff shortages caused by workers who’ve called out sick with the coronavirus — a problem that’s only compounded by the long waits for testing and results at some sites.

“We are short in staff — everyone is getting COVID — so we can’t accommodate outdoor seating, only indoor,” said a worker at Soho’s trendy Lure Fishbar.

People watch the light display at Saks Fifth Avenue while the Christmas spirit arrives to New York City, New York, U.S., December 5, 2021.
Retailers and merchants are afraid rising COVID-19 cases will reduce much-needed tourism as New Yorkers stick to staying home.
REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

Disappointed tourists

And while some popular tourist attractions were still packed, including the LEGO store in Manhattan’s Rockefeller Center, where shoppers were lined up around the block, many visitors to the Big Apple said their trips weren’t going quite as planned.

Executive Director of New York City hospitality Alliance Andrew Rigie
New York City Hospitality Alliance Executive Director Andrew Rigie says mounting nixed reservations have been “a gut punch” on restaurants.
Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

Retiree Dawn Nook of Gloucester, England, said she and hubby Paul Nook arrived on the Queen Mary 2 ocean liner, which docked in Brooklyn on Monday for the first time in nearly two years.

Nook said they were “happy to wear the masks” after last visiting the city 10 years ago — but disappointed to learn how much havoc COVID-19 was wreaking on cherished Yuletide traditions.

“We had tickets to ‘The Nutcracker’ and it’s canceled. It’s such a shame,” she said.

Chito Gvrito in Manhattan
Chito Gvrito in Manhattan closed due to the surge of the omicron variant.
Christopher Sadowski
A person dressed as the Grinch stands near the display windows at Saks Fifth Avenue during Christmas season in New York City, U.S., December 12, 2021.
Restaurant owners were hoping holiday tourism would spike up sales as the city rebounds from the pandemic.
REUTERS/David ‘Dee’ Delgado

”I was looking forward to the ballet, what a damper.”

Jean Torres of North Carolina said he, wife Ruth Torres and their son Jeanpaul, 11, had a similar experience.

“We wanted to get tickets to see Aladdin, and the show was canceled,” he said.

Shoppers wear protective face masks inside Saks Fifth Avenue department store as new New York State indoor masking mandates went into effect amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in New York City, New York, U.S., December 13, 2021.
Businesses previously lamented Gov. Kathy Hochul’s indoor mask mandate for discouraging shoppers.
REUTERS/Mike Segar

In addition to “Aladdin,” Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Pulitzer Prize-winning musical “Hamilton” is closed through Christmas and Alanis Morrisette’s “Jagged Little Pill” closed Monday after “multiple” cast and crew members tested positive for the coronavirus.

Torres said he was worried about the possibility of his family catching COVID-19 during their Christmas getaway.

Numerous Broadway shows, including “Aladdin,” have been canceled for the holidays in response to rising COVID-19 cases.
Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

“We went to the Statue of Liberty yesterday, and we were packed in like sardines,” he said.

“I’m concerned because in some places, like in the subway or Macy’s and the ice-skating rink, there isn’t social distancing. When I saw all the people ice skating at the rink, we skipped.”


Sports world reacts to John Madden’s death




Sports world reacts to John Madden’s death

Legendary NFL coach and broadcaster John Madden died Tuesday morning at 85, the NFL announced. News of the football icon’s passing hit Twitter on Tuesday evening, and athletes, coaches and broadcasters from across the sports world reacted.

Fellow broadcasting legend Dick Vitale, who is currently battling cancer, called Madden “the greatest analyst of all time of any sport” in his Twitter tribute.

Former Yankees pitcher and notable Raiders fan CC Sabathia said “your legacy will live forever.” Madden coached the then-Oakland Raiders from 1969-78, a couple of years before Sabathia, a Vallejo, California native, was born. Lakers star LeBron James had similar words about Madden’s lasting legacy, adding an infinity emoji.

Former tennis star and social justice activist Billie Jean King recalled meeting Madden as a “privilege.”

Radio voice of the Rangers Kenny Albert, a five-sport broadcaster who’s been with FOX Sports since its inception in 1994, shared a photo circa 26 years ago to remember Madden.

ESPN’s Bomani Jones took a bit of a shot at current color commentators, noting that Madden “set an unreachable standard.”

Frank Caliendo, who’s made a career out of impersonations, including one for Madden, said he was surprised how emotional he felt.

Several football players, and others, including Saints running back Mark Ingram II and former Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant, credited Madden with being part of the reason why they love football.

Rams wide receiver and NFL MVP contender Cooper Kupp quote the late coach in his tribute: “The road to Easy Street goes through the sewer.”

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Miles McBride’s Knicks role will lessen with Kemba Walker’s resurgence




Miles McBride’s Knicks role will lessen with Kemba Walker’s resurgence

MINNEAPOLIS — The Knicks got back another body in rookie point guard Miles McBride, who was cleared from protocols Tuesday and rejoined the team in Minnesota.

But there is no longer any hype for the rookie’s return. Kemba Walker is back as the starting point guard and coming off winning Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors with four standout games, including his Christmas Day spectacular. The Knicks have gone 2-2 since Walker regained the starting job.

“It’s great,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said. “He had a great week. He’s playing great basketball. The team winning helps him get recognized and he was a big part of driving that winning. It’s great for the team.’’

McBride was also spectacular in his last outing before getting COVID-19, when he played the entire second half Dec. 16 in Houston and seemingly earned a spot in the rotation. In fact, McBride had strung together two decent outings before he was ruled out. But things have changed since his emergence and McBride is likely back to being a bit player.

Without a practice, McBride wasn’t even expected to see time when the Knicks faced the Timberwolves to kick off a four-game road trip.

Miles McBride
NBAE via Getty Images

Of course, with Walker’s arthritic knee, anything is possible. The Knicks play Detroit on Wednesday in a back-to-back, so it’s uncertain whether Walker will complete both contests. In addition, Immanuel Quickley is out of COVID-19 protocols but Thibodeau wasn’t sure he was ready for meaningful minutes.

That left Walker against the depleted Timberwolves, who were missing their three top players (Anthony Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell), all because of COVID-19 .

Kemba Walker
Kemba Walker

When McBride got sidelined by the virus and Derrick Rose needed ankle surgery, Walker was resurrected by Thibodeau and it’s been a stunning comeback story.

Though Thibodeau has clear reservations about Walker based on his nine-game banishment due to his defensive malaise as an undersized point guard, he admitted after the Christmas Day triple-double against Atlanta that Walker is playing “much more aggressive.”

Walker’s triple-double that featured 10 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds was a lot different than his prior outing, when he scored 44 points against Washington.

“I thought his passing was terrific,’’ Thibodeau said before the Knicks resumed their schedule.

“Kemba had control of the game. The game tells you what to do. That’s what I loved about the way he played. I don’t think he forced anything. They puts size on him and were aggressive in their pick-and-roll coverage. He didn’t fight it. He attacked pressure the way you like to attack pressure. You don’t fight pressure with pressure. Don’t try to split it. Get rid of it, go to the backside. Let the game tell you what to do.’’

The Knicks coach is finally seeing all the elements of what Walker can do. Before his demotion, Walker was nothing more than a no-defense, 3-point shooter whose plus-minus was an abysmal minus-122.

Thibodeau was also concerned about his durability in sitting out two of the three back-to-back sets. The last load management game in Atlanta in late November triggered Thibodeau’s decision.

But now it’s only superlatives from Thibodeau in judging the last four games.

“Sometimes it’s going to be his shooting, sometimes it’s his penetration and getting in the paint to force a collapse and sometimes they’re being aggressive with their traps get rid of the ball quickly,’’ Thibodeau said. “The overall play, his rebounding. When your guards rebound, those are key to fast breaks. The more guard rebounding we get the better we can be. ‘’

The Knicks still have three players in protocols — centers Nerlens Noel and Jericho Sims and the newly infected Wayne Selden. Quickley and Kevin Knox were cleared on Christmas but were held out for conditioning.

No matter. The Knicks go as Kemba goes.

“He’s much more aggressive,’’ Thibodeau said. “That was the challenge. At the beginning of the year he and Evan were two new starters. Sometimes guys are trying to fit in. he’s being very aggressive which is the way we want him to play. Not deferring at all. When he and Julius [Randle] are aggressive like that our team is different.’’

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Bar raises dramatically for Zach Wilson in matchup with Tom Brady, Buccaneers




Zach Wilson and Tom Brady

When Zach Wilson stares across the MetLife Stadium field at the opposite sideline this Sunday, it won’t be Trevor Lawrence he’ll be looking at as his game-day counterpart.

Lawrence, drafted by Jacksonville one spot before the Jets selected Wilson at No. 2 overall last April, is a contemporary.

This Sunday at MetLife, the Jets rookie quarterback won’t be staring at a contemporary on the other sideline. He’ll be staring at the GOAT.

Tom Brady.

The bar raises dramatically for Wilson and the Jets, who are coming off of their feel-good, get-well win over the woeful Jaguars and Lawrence this past Sunday.

Brady and Buccaneers, who are 11-4, NFC South division champions and seeking to repeat as Super Bowl champions, play the Jets, who are 4-11 and seeking more signs of development from their rookie quarterback.

To say this is a step up in competition for Wilson and the Jets going from Lawrence and the Jags to Brady and the Bucs is as obvious as pointing out that Tampa Bay receiver Antonio Brown has had a few off-the-field incidents during his otherwise stellar NFL career.

There hasn’t been a lot to keep the interest of the Jets fan this season — other than watching Wilson’s development. That took an unfortunate pause for the four games Wilson missed with a knee injury, but he’s been back for five games and has looked like a better quarterback, throwing only two interceptions in those games (none in the last three) since returning from his injury.

The problem, though, is that Wilson hasn’t been producing enough touchdowns, throwing for three of them and rushing for four others in the past five games.

Zach Wilson and Tom Brady
Zach Wilson and Tom Brady
N.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg; AP

Baby steps, though.

Wilson was the better quarterback this past Sunday when matched up with Lawrence, who threw for more yards than Wilson did, but Wilson ran for 91 yards, including his electric 52-yard scoring jaunt, and made key throws when he needed them.

Wilson will not win Sunday’s game against Brady and the Bucs throwing for the 102 yards he had against the Jaguars. He and the Jets will need more.

Consider this: Brady enters the game having thrown 37 TD passes and for 4,580 yards this season and averages a league-high 305.2 passing yards per game.

Then this: The Buccaneers average 29.5 points per game this season, second most in the NFL.

And this: Wilson doesn’t have a single 300-yard passing game, averages 183 passing yards per game and has thrown seven TD passes in 11 games.

Seven TD passes is a pedestrian two-game total for Brady.

Wilson and the Jets are playing with house money anyway in what always has been a developmental season, so Sunday against Brady should, at its very least, be a great measuring-stick learning experience for Wilson, who’s studied Brady on tape.

Wilson revealed this month that he watched film of Brady before the Jets played the Eagles on Dec. 5 in an effort to pick up tips on how Brady worked against the Eagles defense when he played them earlier in the season.

“I thought it was really cool to see kind of how he went through his whole process, how he navigated the pocket, different things like that,” Wilson said at the time.

On Sunday, Wilson gets to see that process up close as Brady tries to dissect a Jets defense that has yielded 29.9 points per game this season, the most in the NFL.

That puts an added onus on Wilson to produce on the other side of the ball, because he knows Brady is going to get his. Wilson will likely need to produce four TDs — any way he can — for the Jets to simply remain competitive with the Super Bowl champs.

That’s a lot to ask of a 22-year-old kid who’s produced just 11 TDs in his 11 starts, up against Brady, who’s thrown 618 TD passes and for 83,784 yards in his remarkable career.

It, too, is a lot to ask playing against an aggressive Tampa Bay defense that’s ranked No. 9 in the NFL in points allowed (20.8 per game) and is led by former Jets head coach Todd Bowles, who’d surely like to send a holiday message to his former employer.

If you don’t think Bowles will be blitzing the bejesus out of Wilson, then you probably think Antonio Brown is a living saint.

The good news for the Jets is that Wilson has shown incremental improvements, particularly when it comes to his decision-making and quicker releases on his throws.

“He’s coming along, he’s getting more comfortable, he’s calmer back there,’’ Jets coach Robert Saleh said Monday. “He’s in a great headspace and it’s going to be fun to watch him grow, continue to grow.’’

A big part of that growth will take place this Sunday as he watches the GOAT operate from the opposite sideline at MetLife.

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