"It's good to see you again!" It sounds euphoric from the legendary Apollo Theater in Harlem. After two years with Corona and most recently the Omicron wave, things are finally looking up again. For the first time since the outbreak of the pandemic, the Apollo is once again opening the curtain on its talent show. "Welcome!" – Opener Greginald Spencer gets in the mood for the amateur night, which has made stars from Ella Fitzgerald to Michael Jackson to Machine Gun Kelly famous.
The lights are on again on Broadway
"It felt great," Spencer gushed afterwards. "For the first time in two years – we didn't know at the time if we would ever see this again." The New Yorkers have already practiced the reunion. Once upon a time, the city was about to wake up. Then Omicron threw them back again. But say hello to the groundhog every day, says Spencer – now things are going uphill again.
"The Apollo opens, Broadway opens, the mask requirement is lifted, and every store can decide for itself whether people have to wear masks or not." Little by little, Broadway turns on its lights, which had just gone out again at the end of the year. Little by little, 35 big shows are coming back. "Musicman" with Hugh Jackmann and "MJ – The Musical" premiered in front of packed seats. The crowds are once again crowding Times Square.
The tourists come back
And the hotels were slowly filling up again. "It's steadily going uphill," says Chris Heywood of New York's tourism organization NYC & Company. "We had an occupancy rate of over 50 percent last week, we sold 452,000 hotel nights."
It has been the best week of the year so far – and the trend is rising, says Heywood, as more and more tourists come to New York. Visitors from Germany are among the top ten percent. "They are a main source of European tourists, and always have been. We look forward to the German guests!"
Empty office towers, empty shops
The office towers, on the other hand, remain empty. According to information from the "Kastle" key card service, just 26 percent of the offices are currently occupied. Mayor Eric Adams pleads with the empty concrete desert: "You can't keep New York City running from home!"
Above all, the city needs back the millions of office workers who fled to work from home before the pandemic. Without them, thousands of small shops, diners, cobblers and barber shops will die in the Midtown business district.
Omicron has had a devastating effect on New York's restaurant scene, says Food Association chief Andrew Rigie. "We have lost thousands of bars. Many are still struggling. We are short of 75,000 jobs in bars and restaurants compared to before the pandemic."
Deutsche Bank is one of the first companies to have brought its workforce back to the office. The trading floor is also completely full and mask-free again. Other companies are still hesitating. New York governor Kathy Hochul is impatient. "Tell everyone to come back," Hochul appeals to the company bosses. "Pay them a bonus if they burn their Zoom app. Come back!"