City businesses taking major hit during cold snap

Would you really want to sit on the open-air top of one of these? The empty second level of this Grey Line tour bus, photographed on February 7, 2014, is one of the casualties of the cold weather, which have caused some of the city's attractions to lose business.
Would you really want to sit on the open-air top of one of these? The empty second level of this Grey Line tour bus, photographed on February 7, 2014, is one of the casualties of the cold weather, which have caused some of the city’s attractions to lose business. Photo Credit: Myles Aronowitz

Frigid temperatures, snowstorm after snowstorm and harsh travel conditions are keeping New Yorkers and tourists away from many of the city’s top attractions and hot spots.

From museums and parks to restaurants and entertainment locales, some Big Apple venues’ owners and operators say they’ve seen fewer visitors lately.

One of the spots that’s experienced a dip in attendance compared to a year ago is Bryant Park.

“New Yorkers are hardy, but this winter has been too cold for them,” said Dan Biederman, president of the Bryant Park Management Corporation. “We’ve reached that point where people are fed up.”

The Rockefeller Center Ice Rink has also seen fewer skaters this year.

“Attendance is down, primarily due to the extreme cold. The cold definitely affects our attendance,” said Carol Olsen, a spokeswoman for the Rock Center rink.

“A lot of the tri-state area people won’t be coming in because they have their own shoveling and whatnot to take care of,” she added.

Although businesses owners said they know January and February temperatures tend to keep people at home, this year’s polar vortexes have exacerbated the problem.

Last month, the average temperature in the city was 29 degrees, six degrees below the 2013 average. January saw six inches of snow, four inches more than last year. On top of that were two polar vortexes that sent shivers through the city.

Typically, January and February are the slowest months for the National Sept. 11 Memorial & Museum.

But last Wednesday, when the ice storm hit, the memorial had 2,200 visitors. That was down from 4,000 the week before, on a day that saw less precipitation and 20-degree temperatures.

“It certainly is the off-season with visitors,” said Anthony Guido, a spokesman.

Double-decker tour bus promoters, who work on commission, told amNewYork last week that fewer tourists are braving the cold to tour the city.

The walking tours of Grand Central Terminal, meanwhile, saw 300 fewer people last week compared to the same period last year, according to an MTA spokeswoman.

When it comes to eateries, results are mixed. Andrew Moesel, a representative of the New York Restaurant Association, said that proximity to public transporation is a big factor in terms of business during this rough winter. “I have spoken with some restaurants that are way down but others that are doing well,” he said.

The Queens Museum of Art in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park had a roughly 20% decrease in student visits because school trips were canceled during the various snowstorms.

“The attendance for people who are coming from further away, let’s say coming on the subway, are down,” said Tom Finkelpearl, executive director of the museum. However, the number of tour groups visiting overall “hasn’t been affected at all. It’s kind of amazing.”

Broadway, partly thanks to special deals planned in advance, has overcome the harsh weather.

Overall attendance so far this year was up by 44,000 compared to the same period in 2013, according to trade association The Broadway League.

Charlotte St. Martin, executive director of The Broadway League, said theater owners have always prepared for a lull during January and February and they usually offer ticket discounts or perks to get people in seats. “Yesterday there was a $40 special for ‘Bronx Bombers.’ The other day they had hot chocolate free if you came early,” she said Wednesday.

These adaptive marketing strategies are what make New York businesses strong enough to ride out the lousy weather, according to the city’s tourism wing, NYC & Company. Chris Heywood, a spokesman for the agency, said his staff isn’t worried because they always plan around the cold months with promotions and offers such as Broadway Week and Restaurant Week, to get people out.

“If we create the value message and dangle the value carrot, they will come out,” he said.

For the businesses that haven’t been as lucky, Heywood advised that they brainstorm creative promotions. “You just have to remember that there is a lot to do in the city and no one likes being cooped up in their rooms forever,” he said.