After mounting pressure from local business owners, including a $2 billion class action lawsuit filed by Little Neck, Queens Il Bacco restaurant in the New York County Supreme Court on August 28, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has reversed course and will allow New York City to reopen indoor dining on September 30. Capacity in restaurants will be limited to 25% and if the infection rates — currently at .9% — climb back up to 2%, then New York City mayor Bill de Blasio added that they would “have to re-evaluate.” Additionally, the governor set a deadline of Nov. 1 to consider doubling indoor capacity if infection rates stay low.
“We knew compliance was lacking in New York City,” Cuomo said, during the press conference, explaining why the city was so behind the rest of the state in lifting restrictions. “That was a reason for caution.”
In addition to the capacity limitation, Cuomo said that all patrons must have their temperatures checked at the door, provide contact information for contact tracing purposes and wear masks when not at tables. Restaurants must have tables six feet or more apart, no bar service, no service after midnight and enhanced air filtration and purification standards.
“Science will guide our decision-making as we continue to monitor progress and health care indicators over the next three weeks to ensure a safe reopening,” de Blasio later added. “This may not look like the indoor dining that we all know and love, but it is progress for restaurant workers and all New Yorkers."
This is a swift turnaround for the city, which has closed indoor dining since March. Indoor dining has been allowed in other areas of the state, including Long Island and upstate New York have allowed indoor dining for months. As recently as Tuesday, Cuomo called the plan to reopen dining rooms in New York City “reckless:”
“It would be negligent and reckless to open indoor dining knowing that you have issues in upstate New York, knowing that compliance is a problem, and knowing that you have no enforcement mechanism,” Cuomo said during Tuesday’s press conference.
The New York Times estimated in August that approximately 2,800 small businesses in New York City have closed since March.
The New York City Hospitality Alliance, which has been pushing for the return to indoor dining amid the growing number of business closures supported the plan: “The New York City restaurant industry has been financially devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic and a safe return to indoor dining is critical to help save these vital small businesses and jobs,” the alliance said in a statement. “We’re thankful to Gov. Cuomo for announcing a return to indoor dining with a blueprint for future expansion. Restaurants are essential to New York’s economic and social fabric, and indoor dining is a key component to the industry’s recovery.”
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