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DIGEST | Reopening the Tearoom

This month, we were thrilled to reopen the tearoom for indoor seating. With our very own jazz guitarist to serenade the outdoor tables we set up over the last two summers, some of you may have forgotten that the tearoom was closed for nearly two full years–in which case we did our jobs!–but we were counting down every day until we could welcome everyone back.

Don’t get us wrong: we love trying new things, and as New Yorkers, we’re nothing if not adaptable. But in this particular instance, we’ll trade our makeshift persimmon-drying room for a real tearoom any day of the week, fun as it was.

Of course, some changes are here to stay. Where winters used to mean recalibrating the tearoom’s capacity in direct proportion to the number of puffer coats–always floor-length, black, and shockingly voluminous–hanging on the coat-hooks and stuffed into seat corners, now it means squinting at various iterations of vaccine card-ID combinations.

Getting carded

As most people who’ve been out to a restaurant in the city know, getting carded carries slightly different connotations these days. It’s no longer a sign that you could pass for being in your early twenties (appealing to some), that you’ve been busted (appealing to none, but experienced by many), or that you’re going Somewhere Fun (conveniently signified by a bouncer, a cover charge, and stamps). These days, it’s all about the vaccine card.

There’s the physical, photo, or app (remember Excelsior, anyone?) conundrum, then the hassle to find the ID to show alongside the card. And somehow, even with all our practice, we forget to put our vax card and ID in the same place. And that’s just your side of the story.

After all the delays in reopening, we’ve been trying to dust off our optimist’s lens. It’s just exciting to see everyone’s faces, which you’d think would help with the card checks.

But no. Unlike TSA, guests are still masked when we check IDs. And who knew you could read so much into what is essentially only the top third of the face? Especially decked out in winter gear–coats, hats, scarves–it’s basically ripe for catfishing.

And then there are the vaccine cards themselves. We see the scroll (remind us to never try to find a single photo in our camera roll from last year) for digital records, the favorited image; the poorly handwritten ones (a reminder that poor handwriting extends beyond doctors in the medical field) and the stickered (genius, truly).

Now, you may be wondering why we’re sharing this. You’re not verifying vaccinations, after all. But that’s not completely true. Even though it hasn’t been opened for long, the tearoom is still a hotspot for first dates.

They may not be checking vax cards, but first daters want to know–vaccinated or boosted? We could probably write an entire post about how first dates have been affected by the pandemic, but we won’t.

Why now?

Initially, we had hoped to time reopening with the tearoom’s anniversary back in October. But, as usual, life got in the way, first in the form of Frederico breaking a few bones in September (but he’s alright now - bikers, wear your helmets).

Next was the space paradox. Anyone who’s come into the tearoom while we were doing takeout only probably noticed some hard-to-miss mountains of shipping supplies. We didn’t just magically create more space behind the counter–as nice as that sounds. Instead, we moved our shipping outfit to a new space in the Navy Yards in November.

That led us directly into the holiday season craze (was it us or did everyone wake up on December 1 and realize they needed gifts?), which quickly shifted into Omicron upon the holidays themselves, right up through the lunar new year. Only a month ago, if you recall.

But even with the delays, we couldn’t be more pleased to finally have the tearoom back to some approaching normal, even if it’s still sometimes strange to remember what people look like unmasked.

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