Malls in New York City will be allowed to reopen at 50 percent occupancy starting on September 9th, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced. They will be subject to strict safety protocols, including strict enforcement of face coverings, social distancing, additional staff to control occupancy, traffic flow, and seating to avoid crowding, and enhanced cleaning and disinfection protocols. Also, there must be enhanced air filtration, ventilation, and purification standards in place. Casinos in New York State will be allowed to open at 25 percent occupancy, with no table games or beverage service on the gaming floor.
There will be no indoor dining permitted in malls. The issue of indoor dining in NYC is becoming a huge flashpoint as restaurants brought a $2 billion a class action lawsuit against Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio. Hospitality has been hit especially hard by Covid-19 and the survival of the industry is at stake. de Blasio said a timeline should be presented later in September but that may be too late. Neither Cuomo nor de Blasio seems particularly interested in leading on this issue with de Blasio saying that the decision on indoor dining in the governor’s hands, and the governor blaming the mayor of a lack of compliance and enforcement related to masks and social distancing. With NYC Council Speaker (and mayoral candidate) Corey Johnson stating his support for indoor dining, the governor floated the possibility of a 4,000 NYPD task force as part of the reopening equation.
The notion that enforcement on outdoor dining regulations is lax is not factually based. Yes, there have been high profile incidents of large crowds but that is not the norm. If anything, Cuomo’s State Liquor Authority (SLA) and state police have been too heavy handed on restaurants and bars just trying to survive. Furthermore, the mayor and speaker have walked a delicate balancing act between calls to defund the police and concerns over rising violent crime and public safety. Their success is debatable but the governor demanding a special task force over indoor dining in such a climate is just bizarre. Hopefully, the reopening of malls further pushes NYC back in the right direction but unfortunately, there are more questions than answers.