Five Patio Questions With Fresh Salt’s Sara Williams
The term “patio” may not technically apply to Fresh Salt’s designated space at 146 Beekman St., but proprietor Sara Williams probably wouldn’t flinch at the moniker. The Department of Transportation likes to describe the exteriors as “roadway dining areas,” which is a little jargon-y (and also a touch too rural) to describe the shack-like expansions that sprung up at the height of Covid. Williams’s own names for the structure vary, depending on the context: ”outdoor seating” when emailing with guests over a large reservation, “the shed” as the catch-all for the breezy drinking area, maybe “covered seating” if she’s feeling fancy that day.
Above all else, Williams calls the dining area a “huge success” for her beloved neighborhood watering hole — a setup that locals have embraced wholeheartedly since its launch in 2020. The Alliance, whose staff has been known to post up at Fresh Salt for, uh, research, wanted to ask Williams about the “patio,” which notably has a new coat of paint to welcome in the spring and summer seasons.
It’s a given that warmer weather is good for business, but does operating outdoors put an undue strain on the staff? Is it a hassle?
No, it’s a welcomed hustle! Believe me. We’ve all had that conversation at work. What are we gonna do if they take this away?, because it’s been such a huge success and so critical to the business. So many people prefer still to be outside — be it on account of lingering Covid concerns or simply because it feels nicer! The roadway has had such an enormous impact in our recovery. So I don’t think anyone — myself or staff included — has any issue with the extra bussing and whatever comes with maintaining that area. It makes such a difference for us.
How does the clientele change during the outdoor season? Who comes out there?
Overall it’s just so much busier. We do get a lot of large groups who ask for sections of tables because they’re having happy-hour work events and prefer to be outdoors. There’s a lot more of that. This was the first winter since the pandemic that we actually had a decent winter — partly because I think Covid numbers were down but also it never snowed. However, I’m expecting a big uptick in reservations for the outdoors — a lot of team-building exercises and those types of after-work cocktail things. They can get all their people outside and feel better about that.
So there’s a strong office crowd that still comes through — not to disparage tourists, but that’s notable that you’re not only seating four-tops from Iowa.
Correct. Actually what has been really interesting is the fact that our busiest days in the Before Times were Friday at happy hour. That would be as busy as we would get, but that is no longer the case. It is now Thursday, because people who are required to go to the office generally might come in Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday — Thursday being like their Friday — and then they’re gonna work from home Friday.
So, to strategize a long weekend, office workers reserve Fridays as one of their stay-at-home days? And maybe use Mondays for their laundry days?
Yeah, exactly. So that’s been a switch, but I haven’t seen too many tourists yet. Then again, that might change this coming season. Maybe we will see more European tourists or from other parts of the world, like Okay, yeah we can travel now. People will come. It’s New York City.
You’ve been operating since 2004, and your crowds are impressive. What’s one of the reasons that you’ve been able to keep everyone coming?
Our happy hour is generous because it’s four hours long, seven days a week [$7 wines and house liquor, $6 drafts from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.]. So that’s my emphasis on it. A lot of the companies that are down here don’t function with the typical 9-to-5. They’re more part of the creative class and work 10 to 6, or 10 to 7. So they’re not getting out until late. I’ve noticed that to be the case in the last several years, as more of those types of companies open up downtown. Having the happy hour last until 8 for them is compelling.
photo: Sara Kerens/APTags: Fresh Salt, patio fever, sara williams