Restaurants seek haven in Palm Beach amid NYC exodus

Business owners fleeing NYC find greener pastures in Palm Beach

FOX Business’ Ashley Webster talks with a restaurateur who has taken his business to Florida.

For the ailing restaurant business, Palm Beach, Fla., may be shaping up to be the new New York City.

In the latest episode of the Big Apple exodus, the city’s once-buzzy dining scene is now following its well-heeled patrons to the Sunshine State.

While New York City's businesses remain under coronavirus restrictions, Florida's are thriving in an open season. In what might look like a parallel universe, city staples such as La Goulue and Le Bilboquet are opening outposts in Palm Beach that mirror their motherships up north.

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Even though New York has begun to allow indoor dining at 25 percent capacity, restaurant owners are saying that it’s not enough, forcing some to completely relocate to Florida.

In the case of La Goulue’s owner, Jean Denoyer, the decision to open a location in Palm Beach has been “very profitable.” After a year of losing a fortune amid the closure of his three restaurant businesses in New York, he knew it was time to look elsewhere. The new venue, which opened four months ago, has since been booming, with reservations at full capacity on most nights.

“I’m finally making a little bit of money here, and I’m very happy about it,” Denoyer told FOX Business. “I love being in Palm Beach, and when I moved to Palm Beach I gave up my apartment in New York, and I haven’t looked back.”

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The Parisian Bistro joins the lineup of premier eateries that have followed their big-money clientele down South. Just a half-mile away, Le Bilbouquet’s sister restaurant held a grand opening. Other famous boîtes like Sant Ambroeus, Swifty’s and Le Boulud have also been resurrected on the island, where the energy is alive, and patrons clink glasses to freedom and the sunshine.

Meanwhile, the city’s outdoor dining scene paints another picture, a disheartening awakening for some restaurateurs who once believed they had finally made it. Despite being open with restricted capacity, snowstorms and winter weather conditions have kept many customers at home. Those who choose to brace the chilly climate can be seen bundled up and huddled together under heaters for warmth.

For La Goulue’s partner operating the New York City venue, restaurant volume has been scant.

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According to FOX Business’ Ashley Webster, the Manhattan property has been struggling alongside the rest of the restaurant industry in the city.

“I’ve been in this business most of my life, and I’ve never seen a year like last year,” NYC La Goulue’s Hassan Elgarrahy told FOX Business. “To put it bluntly, we are on life support. We’ve been on life support for a whole year.”

Palm Beach continues to reap the benefits of the great New York escape, especially as more people become full-time residents of Florida and bring the business with them.

“New Yorkers are no stranger to Palm Beach,” Webster said. “They come down here every year in the winter, but what is different now is people think they are going to stay year round.”

Fox Business' Ashley Webster contributed to this story.

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