The city’s positivity rate decreased below 5 percent. 

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that indoor dining may return to New York City on Valentine’s Day if positivity rates hold steady until then.

Cuomo reported that New York’s positivity rate has shrunk from 7.1 percent on January 5 to 4.9 percent Thursday, and models indicate the rate will continue decreasing. Across the state, the positivity rate is 4.65 percent, the lowest since December 11.

“You watch those numbers, and you react to the numbers,” Cuomo said during a press conference. “What is happening with the positivity? What is happening with the new cases per capita? What is happening with the hospitalization rate? And adjust the economic valve as follows.”

NYC first shut down in-person dining in March. Three months later, outdoor dining was allowed. Indoor dining was supposed to come back during the summer, as well, but rises in COVID cases halted the move. It wasn’t until the end of September that dining rooms reopened at 25 percent capacity. Cuomo then decided to shut down indoor dining in early December when hospital bed capacity dipped below 20 percent.

If indoor dining returns on Valentine’s Day, the capacity would once again be set at 25 percent. The same measures set at the end of September would apply now—temperature checks would be mandatory, one member of each party must provide contact information if tracing becomes necessary, there will be no bar service, and masks must be worn at all times unless seated.

The curfew will remain at 10 p.m.

Andrew Rigie, executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance, said it’s good news that Cuomo “heard the voice of New York City’s struggling restaurant industry,” but he added that restaurants are “broken hearted” that they have to wait two weeks to open at just 25 percent. He noted operators’ displeasure at the fact that NYC may only operate at 25 percent capacity while the rest of the state may hold 50 percent capacity even though infection and hospitalization rates are higher in other regions.

“Restaurants in the city are ready to safely open now,” Rigie said in a statement. “Unfortunately, once again the state’s standards are being applied inequitably in the five boroughs without a transparent and data-driven system for further reopening the city’s restaurant economy. These actions raise legal and moral concerns and extend unique economic challenges on the city’s battered restaurants and bars, which shed more than 140,000 jobs over the past year due to the pandemic and related restrictions.”

NYC could possibly join other major markets that have reopened in the new year, such as Chicago, Denver, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia. Outdoor dining has also returned in parts of California.

Consumer Trends, Feature