To Survive, Gohan-Ya Merges with Lovely Day On Elizabeth Street

Posted on: June 10th, 2020 at 8:08 am by

Photo: Eddie Panta

Lovely Day on Elizabeth Street has become a local favorite because of its affordable home-cooking and cozy neighborhood vibe. But now the something-for-everyone menu, which already includes both Asian and American comfort food, is about to get even more diverse.

Owner Kazusa Jibiki is merging the Japanese fare from her second restaurant, Gohan-Ya, into Lovely Day’s ever-expanding To-Go menu. Running two restaurants apparently proved unsustainable during the pandemic shutdown. So, rather than risk the integrity of both brands – not to mention her own health – Kazusa closed the Orchard Street spin-off.

Combining the restaurants under one roof isn’t the only change Kazusa was forced to make in order to survive. Like many other small businesses, Lovely Day pivoted to selling essential products in order to cover losses. Throughout the shutdown, the restaurant offered customers a wide selection of essentials to take-out orders including, hand-sanitizer, organic soap, farm-raised eggs, specialty snacks, and yes, even toilet paper. They are also diversifying by serving specialty drinks to go, including Mezcal Margaritas and merchandising bottles of wine for sale from the storefront window.

Photo: Eddie Panta

The Japanese-born restauranteur, Kazusa, opened Lovely Day in 2002, and was a part of the neighborhood’s Post-9/11 comeback. Now Eighteen years later, Lovely Day is a bustling hotspot with deep ties to the community. Kazusa counts locals as both loyal customers and staff, which she’s been able to keep on payroll because of the Federal Payroll Protection Program. However, without dine-in service, it’s been a one-woman show, juggling in-store pick-ups, expanding online orders with a variety of delivery services, shifting from cash to credit cards and dealing with the loss of vendors, all while costs on basics like eggs increased.

Gohan-Ya opened summer 2016, Photo: Gohan-Ya

New York City restaurants have a hard time breaking even at full-capacity, so a successful comeback hinges on the ability to accommodate the lunch, brunch, and dinner crowds, as seating is severely limited by half-capacity measures. Sidewalk cafe tables must be six feet apart, which means Lovely day will lose one table-top, but will gain more seating when, and if, the City is able to enact its Phase 3 Outdoor Dining program.

Kazusa has already started looking ahead to Phase 3 by attending online Community Board 2 meetings in order to navigate the city’s ordinances, while also advocating for outdoor, public seating on Elizabeth Street. For now, it appears that storefronts like Lovely Day will be able to petition the DOT to transform the parking spaces directly outside the storefront and convert them into al fresco dining areas.

Lovely Day is also without the Elizabeth Street Garden as an amenity that provides space for office workers to eat.  The garden, directly across the street, has been closed since the shutdown began three months ago. DeSalvio Playground just around the corner, which also provides seating, is likewise closed.

Kazusa, who lives nearby, has developed deep ties in the neighborhood, making friends and partnerships with other restaurantuers, local shop owners, as well as supporting local community causes including the Elizabeth Block Association.

For now, it’s about surviving, not thriving. And Little Italy will come together and persevere as it has in the past.

Recent Stories

See the Subways with the MTA’s Live Subway Map

It’s been a long time coming, but the MTA map is finally going digital. Now officially in beta, the MTA’s “Live Subway Map” is a dynamic interface showing real time train locations, arrival times, and service alerts, among other pertinent info for New York denizens. And it arrives at a time when subway ridership numbers […]

When a Rat Skeleton Falls through Your Ceiling

This is not a Halloween story, but may as well be. As reported yesterday, deaf and hearing-impaired tenants living at 174 Forsyth Street are demanding remedy for deplorable living conditions. Those affected allege years of neglect that led to extreme disrepair and lack of security, and are holding a press conference this morning to train […]

Woman Punches Uber Driver in the Face on Ludlow Street

A woman jumped into an Uber on Ludlow Street and assaulted the driver, police said. On Sunday night, approximately 10:00pm, the woman entered the cab outside 121 Ludlow Street, unwarranted, and allegedly punched the driver in the face. He sustained a fat lip, and is otherwise okay. It’s unclear what prompted the belligerence. However, the […]

Economy Candy and the Pandemic Halloween

With Halloween just a few days hence, we checked in with local love Economy Candy, to see how owners Skye and Mitchell Cohen are managing the pandemic during a peak holiday for the Lower East Side confectioners. As you can imagine, Halloween has always been a big deal in the Economy Candy family. “Growing up, […]

Deaf Tenants Allege Years of Neglect and Poor Living Conditions on Forsyth Street

Deaf tenants in HUD housing on the Lower East Side are organizing to demand better living conditions after years of purported neglect. The buildings comprising 174-184 Forsyth Street were constructed in March 1994 specifically for low-income deaf and hearing-impaired tenants. New York Society for the Deaf owns the six-story, half-block complex, which was financed by […]