New York’s first guidelines for indoor dining include 50% capacity

June 11, 2020

Photo by Mike Von on Unsplash

As it currently stands, restaurants in New York are allowed to reopen for outdoor dining in phase two, which will likely occur in early July in the city, and for indoor dining in phase three, which probably won’t be any sooner than late July. In his press conference yesterday, Governor Cuomo laid out the first guidelines for indoor dining. Most notably, and expectedly, they include a 50-percent occupancy limit and rules for table spacing and table barriers.

More specifics on indoor dining guidelines include:

  • Limited indoor capacity of no more than 50 percent of maximum occupancy, excluding outdoor seating and staff
  • Tables must be at least six feet apart; if not, they must be separated by physical barriers at least five feet in height
  • Those at a table must be members of the same party, with a maximum of 10 per table
  • Seating at bars must be spaced six feet apart
  • Employees must wear masks; customers must wear masks when not seated

The document released by the governor also includes a slew of rules for cleanliness and hygiene.

As Eater previously explained, limited capacity could prove difficult for the already struggling restaurant industry that was forced to cease business-as-usual operations in March. “For us to survive, we would need to be doing a fair amount of takeout to make up for those missing seats. … Something has to give,” said Claire Sprouse, owner of Crown Heights’ Hunky Dory, to Eater. “Our busiest services are weekend services in particular, where we like to pack them in and pack them out. They carry the rest of the week for us.”

In his press conference today, Mayor de Blasio announced the city’s new $3 million Restaurant Revitalization Program that will support unemployed and underemployed restaurant workers affected by the COVID crisis, helping to soften the blow for at least some restaurants. His plan will focus on the 27 communities hit hardest by the pandemic and provide grants of up to $30,000 each to subsidize wages of $20 per hour for at least six weeks, supporting 1,000 workers. The program, which is a joint effort of NYC Opportunity, the Mayor’s Fund to Advance NYC, and One Fair Wage, has selected an initial batch of 100 restaurants; preference was given to those that are offering free or low-cost meals to New Yorkers affected by COVID. Participating restaurants must commit to a $15 minimum wage on top of tips within five years of returning to regular business.

As for indoor dining, five regions in the state enter phase three tomorrow. In some places, like the popular Jersey Shore town Asbury Park, municipalities are ignoring state rules and opening for indoor dining sooner, a decision that will likely result in fines. In his press conference today, Governor Cuomo warned businesses about this, reminding them they can lose their liquor license or right to operate.


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