Photo by Marcus Herzberg from Pexels
Restaurants in New York City will be able to resume indoor dining on September 30, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Wednesday. Capacity will be limited to 25 percent with strict coronavirus-related regulations in place. In addition to the task force led by the State Liquor Authority, the city will provide 400 inspectors to oversee compliance at restaurants. Cuomo said the state will also rely on city residents to report any violations. “I believe in New Yorkers to do the right thing,” the governor said during a press briefing.
According to the state, temperature checks will be required at the door for all customers, one member of each party will be required to provide contact information for tracing if needed, tables must be set up six feet apart, and face coverings will be required for all diners when not seated at a table.
Restaurants will also be encouraged to operate with enhanced “air filtration, ventilation, and purification standards” and allow for “outside air ventilation.” All establishments must close at midnight, according to the governor, and there will be no bar service.
Every restaurant will have to visibly post its 25 percent capacity limit as well as the number diners can call or text to report any violations. Complaints can also be filed online.
Cuomo said state officials will continue to keep an eye on the city’s infection rate and if it remains low, capacity in restaurants could increase to 50 percent by November 1 or earlier.
The announcement comes just days after the governor said “major problems” in compliance at New York City restaurants prevented him from allowing indoor dining to resume. Every other region in New York has been permitted to resume indoor dining. On Friday, New Jersey restaurants opened their dining rooms statewide.
“I’m going to say to the restaurant association that desperately wants to open, and I understand the economic pressure, can you tell me how we’re going to enforce it? How we’re going to monitor compliance? Because the facts on what happened on bars are damning,” Cuomo said last week.
On Wednesday, the governor said the SLA task force, first convened earlier this summer to enforce compliance of COVID-19 regulations, will be expanded, adding 400 code enforcement inspectors provided by the city. The task force will ensure compliance at 10,000 restaurants.
In a statement, Mayor Bill de Blasio said if the city’s positive infection rates of the virus hit 2 percent, officials will reassess. “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 coordinated inspected regimen,” de Blasio said.
“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 indoor dining that we all know and love, but it is progress for restaurant workers and all New Yorkers.”
Public officials and restaurant owners have pushed for the city and state to release a reopening plan for indoor dining, as positive rates of COVID-19 in the city have remained consistently low since June. The statewide infection rate has remained below 1 percent for over a month.
Last week, a group of over 300 restaurants filed a lawsuit against the city and state this week over the indoor dining ban, which has devastated restaurants across the five boroughs and their workers.
The city was set to resume indoor dining at 50 percent capacity on July 6, but Cuomo and de Blasio put it on hold indefinitely, blaming the spike in coronavirus cases in other states. The Open Restaurants program has allowed roughly 10,000 establishments to set up seating outdoors but is expected to end on October 31.
“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 the 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.”
- Cuomo says indoor dining could resume with an NYPD task force enforcing COVID-19 rules
- 300+ restaurants sign on for $2B lawsuit over New York’s indoor dining ban
- New Jersey will open indoor dining and movie theaters for Labor Day weekend