Indoor dining is back on the table in New York City.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced today that indoor dining will resume at limited capacity — 25 percent — beginning Valentine’s Day.
“We are very excited about the possibility of reopening,” Cuomo said.
The governor said the Feb. 14 start date gives restaurants time to prepare for reopening — not that eateries asked for a delay.
Earlier this week Cuomo said that while some businesses may reopen, indoor dining would remain off limits, but reversed course several days later.
Data from the governor’s office from September through November shows that restaurants and bars only accounted for 1.43 percent of recorded exposures to Covid-19. Household and social gatherings were far more likely to transmit the virus, accounting for 73.84 percent of exposures.
Indoor dining was originally reinstated Sept. 30, after months of restaurants being allowed to operate only for outdoor dining, take-out and delivery. But in December, amid rising Covid cases and hospitalizations, Cuomo pulled the plug on it once again.
The move comes amid mounting pressure from the restaurant industry, which has struggled during the pandemic. Fifty-four percent of New York restaurants said they would likely not survive the next six months without federal relief, according to a survey by the New York State Restaurant Association and the National Restaurant Association. That’s compared to 37 percent of restaurants nationwide.
After the ban was reinstated in December, some restaurants came together to sue the governor over the restrictions. Two lawsuits argued that the ban is unconstitutional, while a separate class-action suit with 70 restaurants as plaintiffs said that it violates their civil rights.
The latter lawsuit also alleges that the guidelines for indoor and outdoor dining — which have changed many times over the past 10 months — are a “Kafkaesque nightmare” that have compounded the hardship many of these venues face.