The order comes with several restrictions, such as mandatory temperature checks.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday afternoon that New York City will be allowed to resume indoor dining beginning September 30.
Dining rooms, which have been shut down since March, will be limited to 25 percent capacity. Additionally, temperature checks will be mandatory, one member of each party must provide contact information if tracing becomes necessary, and restaurants must close at midnight. There will be no bar service and masks must be worn at all times unless seated.
NYC operators and organizations such as the NYC Hospitality Alliance have repeatedly criticized lawmakers for not setting a reopening date. At the beginning of September, a group of restaurant owners filed a $2 billion class-action lawsuit against government officials in an attempt to force the government’s hand.
Without dine-in sales, NYC restaurants have struggled mightily. According to a survey of 500 operators conducted by the NYC Hospitality Alliance, 83 percent could not pay full rent in July.
“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,” Andrew Rigie, executive director of NYC Hospitality Alliance, said in a statement. “We’re thankful to Governor 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.”
The city was originally scheduled to allow indoor dining on July 6, but those plans were suspended indefinitely due to the rise in COVID cases nationwide. The city has been allowed to serve customers outdoors since late June.
Cuomo gave two reasons for New York’s cautious approach. He first explained that New York, which allows in-restaurant dining outside the city, has seen COVID outbreaks at restaurants. Secondly, the governor said that people weren’t complying with restrictions.
“Opening restaurants, I understand the economic benefit and I understand the economic pressure that they’ve been under,” said Cuomo during Wednesday’s press conference. “A restaurant is just not the restaurant owner. A restaurant is the kitchen staff, the wait staff, there’s a whole industry around restaurants. And restaurants also pose a possible risk—the concentrations of people inside indoor dining. But, there’s also a great economic loss when they don’t operate.”
Cuomo said November 1 will be the deadline for the state to decide whether NYC may move up to 50 percent capacity. NYC is the only municipality in the Tri-State area that hasn't allowed indoor dining to return. Connecticut allowed dine-in traffic in June and New Jersey brought it back September 4.
Once the epicenter of the U.S.’s COVID crisis, New York’s infection rate has remained below 1 percent in the past month. NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio reported on Wednesday that the city’s infection rate stood at 1.04 percent. If NYC hits 2 percent, the restaurant reopening plans will be immediately reassessed, according to the mayor.
“We are continuing New York City’s economic recovery by bringing back indoor dining. Working with the state and public health officials, we’ve achieved a plan that puts health and safety first by including strict capacity limits, a close monitoring of citywide positive testing rates and a coordinated inspection regimen,” said de Blasio in a statement. “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. 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.”