As New York remains one of seven states that has still not reopened restaurant dining rooms at this stage in the COVID-19 pandemic, industry advocate group New York City Hospitality Alliance is demanding an immediate return to indoor dining, and said in a press conference appealing to New York City mayor Bill de Blasio and New York governor Andrew Cuomo that they are considering suing the city over what they consider to be an unlawful prohibition.
“We are not asking to open tomorrow; we are just asking for a plan,” Tren’ness Woods-Black, the owner of Sylvia’s, a popular family-owned restaurant in Harlem said during the press conference Wednesday.
But in response to the demands, New York City mayor Bill de Blasio has said that indoor dining is not being considered in the immediate future.
“We are looking at it every day, but we have to see a lot more improvement before we consider it,” de Blasio said during a press conference Wednesday. “There is no timeline.”
Gov. Cuomo suggested going even further to forestall a possible second wave of coronavirus in the fall, and told reporters in a conference call Wednesday that he would consider closing outdoor dining for the fall as well, and reverting back to takeout and delivery only, stating that the city has had “a much bigger problem” with outdoor dining rules compliance than surrounding areas.
“I understand the inconvenience that many businesses are dealing with going through this,” Cuomo said during the conference call. “And I understand many businesses are under economic hardship and they feel that if they can’t get back to full operating that they are going to have issues.”
With New York State’s infection rate below one percent for 10 days in a row, Gov. Cuomo has laid the groundwork for reopening certain indoor businesses like gyms and museums in the coming weeks but has yet to come out with a specific plan for how restaurants will move forward, saying that New York City’s business recovery plan has to be different than the rest of the state.
“New York City is in a different situation than Westchester County and it’s in a different situation than Nassau County, and anyone who has been following this situation at all realizes that,” Gov. Cuomo said during the press conference.
For restaurant owners, this lack of information is not enough, particularly for businesses that are already struggling with complying with (and profiting from) outdoor dining:
"Despite the fact that the city exceeds and sustains the metrics that have allowed restaurants throughout the rest of the State to reopen, government leaders have still yet to provide any guidance on when small business owners, workers and customers can expect indoor dining to return," Andrew Rigie, executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance said in a statement. "Our industry's survival over the next several months depends on government immediately developing and implementing a plan that allows restaurants in New York City to safely reopen indoors like our counterparts everywhere else in the state."
According to a July survey by the New York City Hospitality Alliance, 83% of 500 bars and restaurants surveyed were unable to pay July’s rent in full and 60% of hospitality workers remain jobless.
Over the past month, multiple New York City restaurants filed for bankruptcy or announced that they were permanently closing, including bakery chain Maison Keyser, which is looking to exist its leases, Mr. Bing’s fast-casual Asian concept which is shuttering all of its New York City locations, and Thomas Keller’s TAK Room and Bouchon Bakery, which have also closed for good.
“If there isn’t an immediate plan in place for welcoming customers back indoors, it’s anybody’s guess which industry businesses will survive the winter and which will close permanently,” Alfredo Angueira, owner of Bricks & Hops, Bronx Drafthouse, and Beatstro in the Bronx said during the New York City Hospitality Alliance press conference.
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