On floors twenty and twenty-one of an iconic building in Manhattan’s Flatiron District, 230 Fifth Rooftop Bar is one of TripAdvisor’s “Top ten restaurants with a view” in the city. It’s where people gather to soak in breathtaking views of the Empire State Building, and the best drinks and food around.
230 Fifth Rooftop Bar comprises 30,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor space. In a way, its generous outdoor endowment has been the venue’s saving grace, enabling it to survive during the pandemic. As Director Sal Rozenberg notes of the space, “Who would have thought that the outdoors would be for people’s safety and not for people’s pleasure?”
Even during the winter months, it was possible to settle down in comfort and enjoy the outdoor space thanks to 140 heaters – 80 of which were added this year – to ensure the warmth and comfort of every guest. According to Rozenberg, “It means higher electric bills, but with people feeling safer outdoors and this winter being horrible, it’s helped.”
It must have, seeing the numbers that still come to enjoy what the venue has to offer, especially the novelty of the unique clear plastic igloos. In two sizes, a larger one for groups and a smaller one that provides an intimate setting for couples, the structures offer a unique experience without having to leave the city.
The igloos have always been popular with guests, especially prior to the pandemic when 230 Fifth Rooftop Bar offered igloos with private hot tubs, but, as Rozenberg says, “All of that is in the past. The last twelve months with COVID, things have changed a lot.”
The igloos were originally a platform for guests to meet and interact with each other. They created smaller spaces that allowed people to interact more closely, but given social distancing protocols, this is no longer the case. Instead, 230 Fifth Rooftop Bar has adapted their use in a pandemic-friendly way.
“One of the things we have done, because the movie theaters remain closed, we show fourteen different genre movies in our igloos. All ages are welcome with their parents, so we have a lot of families, couples coming to watch movies in our igloos,” Rozenberg says as he explains the decision to provide family-friendly programming at a venue that has historically been for adults only.
Beyond food and drink
“We don’t want to just promote another way to drink,” says Rozenberg. “People want a reason to go out besides just eating and drinking. They want something that feels like an activity because museums and movie theaters are closed.”
Families aren’t the only new demographic frequenting 230 Fifth Rooftop Bar.
Traditionally it’s been a gathering place for corporate events and a popular destination for international travelers, but with people working from home and international travel halted, guest demographics have shifted to reflect a greater number of locals and domestic visitors from across the United States.
From Rozenberg’s standpoint, “This year has been an interesting year. We’re constantly adjusting to the new local laws that keep popping up with very little notice. It is very difficult to come up with creative events right now.”
Regulations have made it difficult to program events and entertainments at the venue, but that hasn’t stifled the creative spirit. Rozenberg says, of some of the ideas that were in the pipeline prior to the emergence of COVID-19, “We were working on after-work events, mingling parties, messaging parties, weekly events for people between 40 and 60 – that seems to be an age where people are having challenges meeting people.”
The slowdown has been a hard pill to swallow, especially since 2019 was one of the venue’s most successful years on record, in both events and attendance, but also in terms of philanthropy, which is an important part of what it does – a tradition of giving that originated with the venue’s founder, the late Steven Greenberg.
Running leaner and better
Not everything has changed, however. 230 Fifth Rooftop Bar still goes above and beyond to provide guests with the sensations of luxury and celebrity that they have come to expect and enjoy. Guests are still welcomed by the same red velvet ropes; the staff just takes greater effort to disinfect them between uses.
The team at 230 Fifth Rooftop Bar is running at a quarter of its usual capacity but continues to provide an exceptional guest experience, living up to its long-standing reputation. Essentially, 230 Fifth Rooftop Bar is doing more with less, but, thanks to technology, it remains a place where social interactions are still encouraged, while guest safety remains paramount.
While other restaurants and social venues were left scrambling, 230 Fifth Rooftop Bar had the technology and infrastructure to quickly adapt and remain operational, while continuing to deliver optimized social experiences.
A couple of years ago, 230 Fifth Rooftop Bar launched the Approach Now app, which serves as a platform for guests to interact and get to know one another. Each night, a new venue code is released and using this unique code, guests can log into the app and speak to other guests in attendance via public and private chat functions to get to know each other on their own terms.
Bringing the best of digital to this social experience, the Approach Now app serves as a digital platform on which guests can order from the safety of their phones, so complying with New York’s mandate of no walkup bar service.
Despite the changing regulations, the uncertain times, and the persisting pandemic conditions, 230 Fifth Rooftop Bar continues to be a place where moments are celebrated, relationships are formed, and memories are made. It is still a great place to meet new friends, to gather with old friends and it will remain so long after the pandemic protocols are lifted.
“The tough part is behind us. We’re seeing small improvements,” says Rozenberg, who remains full of certainty that with the vaccine the world will return to a normalcy where the venue can again open its doors to local guests, as well as visitors from around the world. In the meantime, it will continue to meet every challenge to assure its place as a premiere destination in New York City.