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MTA Partners With Dining Dignitaries to Welcome Back 24/7 Subway Service and 100 Percent Restaurant Capacity

Updated May 18, 2021 4:37 p.m.


View Photos from News Conference and Food Tasting  

View Video of News Conference and Food Tasting 


NYC Transit Interim President Sarah Feinberg and MTA Chief Customer Officer Sarah Meyer today stood with prominent restaurateurs and the New York City Hospitality Alliance to celebrate the reopening of overnight subway service and full capacity for restaurants and bars. 

The return of 24-hour subway service started at 2 a.m. on Monday, May 17, just over a year after its closing for the first time in the agency’s 116 years with the exception of weather and labor incidents. The shutdown – first four hours long then two hours – allowed the MTA to undertake an unprecedented cleaning regimen to protect customers and employees from COVID-19. The return of 100-percent seating at restaurants takes effect May 19 as announced by Governor Andrew Cuomo earlier this month.  

"Nightlife and all that comes with it such as 24-hour subway service and an active bar and restaurant scene is what attracts people to New York City,” said Sarah Feinberg, Interim President of NYC Transit. “We’re proud to partner with the hospitality industry to serve our customers and as a driving force for the economy.” 

“It’s time to step out from behind our computers and remember why we live in New York City – for the food, the friends, and the fun,” said Sarah Meyer, MTA Chief Customer Officer. “We can make a lunch reservation on a Tuesday or head out to a late dinner on a Sunday while supporting our chefs, food service workers as well as our train and bus operators.” 

President Feinberg and Chief Meyer were joined by legendary French chef Daniel Boulud, iconic Harlem restaurateur Melba Wilson, and neighborhood favorite Ardian Skenderi in front of the Astoria-Ditmars Blvd subway station before walking over to Skenderi’s restaurant Taverna Kyclades to celebrate with some of its famous fare. 

Astoria's once-thriving restaurant scene, with about 150 area establishments, was badly hit by COVID, but is hoping to see an influx of customers as more restrictions get lifted and more New Yorkers get vaccinated. Many restaurants are within walking distance of one of Astoria’s two subway stations along the and lines which saw about 15,000 weekday customers and almost 6,000 on Saturdays before the pandemic. 

“As ‘The World’s Borough,’ Queens is home to a diverse variety of incredible restaurants offering a wide array of culinary styles brought here from all over the world,” said Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr. “Thanks to mass transit, all these restaurants are easily accessible to Queens residents and visitors.  If you’re looking to enjoy delicious meal, I encourage you to #TakeTheTrain to one of our great Queens restaurants.” 

“Public transportation and the restaurant industry share a symbiotic relationship,” said Andrew Rigie, Executive Director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance. “Restaurant workers and customers alike use trains and buses to get to and from the hospitality businesses that are vital to the economic and social fabric of New York City. The fact of the matter is that the restaurant industry cannot recover, let alone function, without a robust and effective public transportation system in place, which is why the NYC Hospitality Alliance is proud to partner with the MTA on the Take The Train campaign that will support countless restaurants, workers and customers across the five boroughs.” 

"We are so happy to finally be returning to full capacity, hiring back our teams and, hopefully, starting to recover from a very hard year. Easy, affordable transportation is as important to the energy and vibrancy of the City as the restaurants that give life to our streets," said Chef Daniel Boulud. "We can't wait to welcome more New Yorkers back to our restaurants!" 

“Public transportation plays such an essential role in allowing New Yorkers to explore new cuisines, engage new cultures, and meet friends and colleagues new and old,” said Melba WIlson, owner of Melba’s Restaurant. “Trains and buses allow us to share a meal and be together no matter if you’re born, bred and buttered in Harlem or a son or daughter of Ditmars Boulevard in Queens. I’m grateful for the partnership the MTA is forging with restaurants all across the five boroughs who more than anything need a helping, supporting hand after the storm we all weathered together.” 

“The heart of the New York City - it’s pulse- is back with all the restaurants returning!” said Ardian Skenderi, owner of Taverna Kyclades.  And how would the pulse beat without the thing that gives it the opportunity to be back- our city’s system-  the subways - our means of coming back to normal.   

Boulud, Wilson and Skenderi will be adding transit-related items to their menus for a limited time. At Bar Boulud, customers will be able to order the 1 Line-Lincoln Center cocktail. Melba’s famous Mac & Cheese will be temporarily named the MMM10 Mac & Cheese for the nearby M10 bus route, and Taverna Kyclades will feature Ditmars Station Veggie Chips - fried zucchini and eggplant with skordalia. 

More About the New York City Hospitality Alliance 

The New York City Hospitality Alliance is a not-for-profit association founded in 2012 to represent and serve restaurant and nightlife establishments throughout the five boroughs. Home to more than 24,000 eating and drinking establishments, employing more than a quarter of a million people, our industry is vital to the economic footprint and social fabric of New York City. 

More About #TakeTheTrain, #TakeTheBus Campaign 

Today's announcement is part of the MTA’s #TakeTheTrain, #TakeTheBus campaign which launched on May 16 in conjunction with 24/7 subway service resuming for the first time since May 6, 2020, to encourage New Yorkers to return to a more reliable, cleaner system than the one many last used before the pandemic arrived in New York.  

The launch of the campaign coincides with recent ridership increases in the system, with more than two million daily weekday riders on subways over the past few weeks and weekday bus ridership reaching 1.2 million. Recent combined Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road ridership of 160,000 is dwarfing the combined average of 23,000 of a year ago, with weekend ridership now approaching 50% of pre-pandemic weekend levels.