New York’s Hot Dog Vendors Are Ready for the Reopening “We decided we gotta stay alive and stay busy. We’re not sitting at home.”

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When the pandemic hit New York last year and Midtown Manhattan emptied out, the neighborhood’s many street vendors were thrown into crisis. Hot dog vendors found themselves without customers, and many fanned out to other neighborhoods or didn’t return to street vending for months: Back in June, one vendor told the New York Times that he was selling maybe ten hot dogs a day, down from 400 before the pandemic. Now, the city is accelerating into a reopening, with offices, gyms, and salons able to return to 100 percent capacity and restaurants 75 percent. Still, Broadway isn’t scheduled to come back until September, and the tourists won’t be back for longer. What does this mean for the hot dog vendors? Grub spoke to seven in midtown, and one in Union Square to see how their “reopening” is going. 

Waleed Waleed, Times Square

It has been very slow — very, very slow. If you make $250 before, now you make $75. Today, I work from 10 in the morning till 12 o’clock, and I made $15 for two hours. It’s not only me, it’s everybody in the area.

I’ve gotten unemployment — and the check, the $1,400 — and it’s helped a little bit. It’s a very, very tough system. It’s better than nothing, because I have my three kids, you know. They’re 12, 6, and 5. I’m the only one supporting my family. Sometimes I do GrubHub. I only started after COVID. It’s not worth the money.

This is my usual spot. I’ve been here, back and forth, since 2002. It’s Times Square, and there are no tourists now. There are no people. Most of the people now are working from home. My customers were not just tourists, but people working here. Now those working who are local? It’s nothing.

I wish the city was back, that Broadway shows would open. Hard Rock Cafe opened last week, it’s been closed for one year and three months. Bubba Gump opened two weeks ago. It’s starting to be that places are opening, you know. Yes, I’m happy they’re opening things back up. I don’t want to stay home. I don’t want to go crazy.