New York City indoor dining postponed indefinitely

Cuomo cites Covid risks in decision that threatens 27,000 restaurants

Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio (Getty, iStock)
Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio (Getty, iStock)

Restaurants suffered a major blow as officials announced Wednesday that indoor dining would remain forbidden indefinitely.

Only six days ago Mayor Bill de Blasio had given thumbs-up for indoor dining to begin July 6 as part of reopening’s phase three. But Gov. Andrew Cuomo had second thoughts as Covid-19 cases began to spike in other states and social distancing began to break down in the city, and decided to reverse course.

Before the governor announced his decision at a late-morning press conference, de Blasio pre-empted him.

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“We particularly see problems revolving around people going back to bars and restaurants indoors. Indoors is the problem more and more. The science is showing it,” de Blasio told reporters. “So I want to make it very clear: We cannot go ahead at this point in time with indoor dining in New York City.”

Later, Cuomo attributed his decision to the coronavirus surge in other states, New Yorkers’ failure to avoid risky behavior, and lack of enforcement by the de Blasio administration.

The rest of the state can proceed with indoor dining at 50 percent capacity in phase three, the governor said. “We have not had the lack of compliance coupled with the lack of enforcement that we’ve had in New York City,” said Cuomo at his Midtown press conference. “It’s much worse here.”

He did not specifically blame the mayor, but made clear who is responsible for enforcement of social distancing and mask-wearing.

“Local governments’ job is enforcement,” Cuomo said. “They had one job: testing, tracing, and enforce the compliance.”

Of the 27,000 restaurants in the city, those that have reopened or stayed open since indoor dining was banned in mid-March will have to continue relying on outdoor dining and takeout.

But their leading trade group said that would not be enough.

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Andrew Rigie, NYC Hospitality Alliance

Andrew Rigie, NYC Hospitality Alliance

“Restaurants and bars have been making enormous financial sacrifices for four months, and their survival now depends on compensation reflective of those losses,” Andrew Rigie, the executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance said in a text.

Some of that compensation should come from their landlords, he added.

“The longer neighborhood restaurants and bars are forced to be closed, the harder it will be for them to ever successfully reopen,” Rigie noted. “This makes it even more urgent to forgive rent, expand outdoor dining and enact other responsive policies to save our city’s beloved small businesses and jobs.”

The governor did not say whether it would be weeks or months before indoor dining can resume.

“It’s going to be postponed until the facts change and it is prudent to open,” Cuomo said, adding that his administration had consulted with restaurateurs and other stakeholders.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy similarly announced Monday that he was delaying indoor dining indefinitely.

Indoor dining and drinking can expose people to a dangerous amount of coronavirus particles because of a combination of factors, Cuomo explained. “It’s the density in those places, and the amount of time you’re in those places, and the proximity,” he said. “It’s hard to eat with your mask, it’s hard to drink with your mask, you’re sitting with the same people for a long period of time.”

In an attempt to accommodate more outdoor dining, Mayor Bill de Blasio recently announced that up to 40 city corridors will be closed to traffic by July 17. He also suspended regulations for publicly owned private spaces so their landlords could make them available for dining.

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