We have to walk and chew gum at the same time,” said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, at a press conference about loosening public health restrictions. “We respond to the data. We respond to the facts that we face today. Facts may change tomorrow.” The data is such that New York City will reopen indoor dining Friday, February 12th instead of February 14th, thus giving restaurants the full Valentine’s Day weekend. Capacity will be limited at 25 percent, temper checks will be mandatory, and at least one person from each party must provide contact information. The statewide curfew of 10 PM will remain in effect.
Relying on takeout, delivery, and makeshift outdoor dining setups has devastated neighborhood establishments across NYC. Not to mention, put them at a competitive disadvantage as New Jersey recently increased indoor capacity to 35 percent, while upstate restaurants have been allowed to open at 50 percent for the most part since last summer, and Nassau and Westchester eateries were (for the most part) able to remain open at 50 percent capacity in December and January.
Recognizing the plight of NYC establishments, members of the City Council including Ydanis Rodriguez, Robert F. Holden, Mark Gjonaj, and Adrienne Adams, wrote a letter to the governor urging him to:
- Increase indoor dining capacity to 50 percent.
- Extend the hours of operation for indoor dining to midnight.
- Permit restaurants and bars to offer customers service at their bar areas.
- Provide contact tracing for all customers.
- Require temperature checks for all customers and employees.
- Implement social distancing measures.
- Require the use of personal protective equipment.
- Require the use of hand sanitation stations.
- Implement a 90-minute time limit for indoor dining for each customer or group.
The City Council members offer reasonable solutions that protect New Yorkers’ public health while providing the beleaguered industry a chance at survival.