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Restaurants that do not obey the restrictions could face financial penalty or closure

New York Cuts Capacity for Restaurants as Coronavirus Concerns Mount

The New York Restaurant Association has asked for assistance.

In an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus, officials in New York are reducing the capacity of facilities of 500 or less by 50 percent, which includes restaurants and bars.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Thursday that beginning Friday at 5 p.m., gatherings of more than 500 people will be banned.

“None of us wanted to take these actions,” said Bill de Blasio on Twitter Thursday night. “This crisis could easily be a six month crisis and the recovery from it could take a long time.”

Restaurants that do not obey the restrictions could face financial penalty or closure.

There have been more than 300 reported cases in New York, with nearly 100 coming in New York City, but no reported deaths.

In an open letter to Cuomo, the New York Restaurant Association pleaded for assistance as restrictions continue to negatively affect New York’s restaurant industry. Melissa Fleischut, president and CEO of the Association, said that member restaurants have seen a 55-percent decline in business. She added that some locations may not be able to keep their doors open.

On behalf of the Association, Fleischut listed requests for relief like prevention of price gouging by temporarily capping delivery fees, extending time for restaurants to pay bills and taxes, making no-interest loans available for businesses that are failing, eliminating penalties for late fees, extending the cure period for violations, and educating the public about how it’s safe to patronize local restaurants.

“We cannot overstate how many restaurants are facing a dire future right now,” Fleischut said in the letter. “We want to stay open and keep employees on the payroll, but for some that will not be possible if this pandemic, and the associated quarantines, continue for even the next month. We urge your assistance.”

The Empire State Restaurant & Tavern Association said in a web post that it strongly encourages operators to follow the guidance of state health officials.

“It does appear likely that the New York State Assembly and Senate will pass and the Governor will sign guaranteed access to sick leave legislation which will include a coronavirus quarantine leave requirement,” the statement read. “We’ll advise you of its provisions and your obligations as soon as we know more.”

Washington State, the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak, has seen especially negative effects on the restaurant industry. The state issued a ban for gatherings of 250 people or more in three counties, but that restriction does not include restaurants. The Seattle Times reported that at least 50 restaurants and bars have closed in the Greater Seattle area in the past two weeks.