Over the 340 days since the coronavirus was declared a pandemic, Governor Cuomo flip-flopped on dining in New York City restaurants for so long that nobody knows what to think. As of this Friday, February 12, eateries will once again be allowed to reopen at 25% indoor capacity. This measure was designed to give wait staff a couple of days to prepare ahead of a Valentine’s Day rush. No industry has suffered more than hospitality and restaurants, juggling restrictions to outdoor dining and takeout-only demands. Safety questions still linger regarding COVID-19 and outdoor dining, with many experts calling the safety of the idea misleading to consumers.
At the governor’s Monday press conference, Cuomo touted the plans for indoor dining as being ahead of schedule. The move gives restaurant owners “a period of time” to prepare for reopening by hiring back staff, planning menus, and getting orders together with distributors. “Twenty-five percent is better than zero,” claimed the governor. This past week has also seen the lowest point of positive cases in New York State since December 11.
I dined at Elite Café on Main Street in Kew Gardens Hills this past Monday and wondered a solitary word – inequitably: Why do New York City restaurants have to abide by a 25%-occupancy restriction, while the State permits 50% occupancy in dining rooms elsewhere, as the infection rates and hospitalization records related to COVID-19 appear higher? Where is the transparency and where is the data from the Governor’s office to justify these new standards? Hasn’t the City been battered enough?
Let’s give a final breakdown of how the City restaurants faired.
Mid-March 2020: Uptick forces restaurants into an uncertain closure.
March 12, 2020: Indoor dining is forced to abide by restrictions of half capacity.
March 16, 2020: Delivery and takeout are the only options available for restaurant goers.
March 17, 2020: Delivery and takeout options are amended to include alcoholic items.
May 28, 2020: Expanded outdoor dining options introduced are by City Council.
June 4, 2020: Mayor Bill de Blasio discloses a plan for outdoor dining.
June 22, 2020: Outdoor dining officially commences at City eateries.
July 1, 2020: Indoor dining is suspended indefinitely.
July 16, 2020: Bars and restaurants are subjected to a three-strike course of action that ultimately has violations leading to the loss of a liquor license.
July 27, 2020: Outdoor dining option as a permanent relief effort is announced by City Council.
Aug. 28, 2020: Demands for indoor dining increase and are highlighted by a $2 billion lawsuit by restaurant owners.
Sept. 9, 2020: Cuomo publicizes indoor dining option at 25% capacity.
Sept. 25, 2020: Outdoor dining becomes a permanent fixture for New York City.
Oct. 16, 2020: Restaurants given permission to institute pandemic surcharge of 10%.
Nov. 13, 2020: Statewide curfew of 10 p.m. is put in place at all bars and restaurants.
Dec. 11, 2020: Without a plan for return, indoor dining ban resurfaces.
Jan. 29, 2021: Announcement for indoor dining to resume is called for February 14, once again at 25% capacity.
Feb. 12, 2021: Indoor dining is set to resume two days ahead of schedule.
By Shabsie Saphirstein