Gov. Cuomo announced on Wednesday that New York City restaurants will be allowed to open for indoor dining starting on September 30th.
Under the new order, restaurants will be able to open up at 25% capacity, and patrons will be required to wear face masks when not seated at a table. Additional requirements include administering temperature checks at the door, collecting information from customers for possible contact-tracing, and enhanced air filtration standards.
This will be the first time in six months that the city will allow indoor dining to resume, after Cuomo first shuttered businesses in mid-March.
In July, Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio pulled the brakes on an initial plan to reopen indoor dining during the summer, following concerns that the coronavirus was still too active in other areas around the country.
Now, under the new provision, restaurants will be allowed to retain outdoor dining on top of limited indoor seating. But some local business owners are skeptical about reopening with just 25% capacity.
“We don’t really know if it’s going to be worth it to open, and neither do most people,” explained Anya Sapozhnikova, co-owner of House of Yes. “I don’t know if we can break even with 25% capacity.”
Similarly, Dromedary Urban Tiki Bar wrote on social media that they felt nausea over the news, and said they would hold off until it either rose to 50% capacity, or the outdoor dining permit expires.
“25% means maybe 20 people, and means more conversations with people that aren’t following the rules,” they wrote.
Sapozhnikova also expressed concern that the new guidelines aren’t specific enough, and could lead to arbitrary shut-downs and confusion amongst businesses.
“Governor Cuomo needs to clarify all of his rules and regulations” she said, referring to the vague language used in describing enhanced social distancing protocols such as ventilation requirements, contact-tracing, and temperature checks.
“These rules aren’t clear and are open to interpretation, and more chances to get fines for messing something up and not doing things perfectly,” she told Bushwick Daily.
Furthermore, Sapozhnikova said that new guidelines don’t address whether or not bars and nightclubs that have been functioning as restaurants throughout the pandemic will have the option for opening indoors.
“We’re all doing our best, but our resources are spread super thin, and if we don’t understand the rules 100%, we risk misinterpreting them and getting shut down again,” she said.
Though some indoor establishments – including museums, gyms, and malls – have already been allowed to reopen, Cuomo has criticized the city for not enforcing social distancing enough at outdoor bars and restaurants.
In his press release, the governor said that the new guidelines will be assessed by Nov.1, and if infection rates do not increase, restaurants will be able to move to 50% capacity.
“This is good news and the right step forward, especially for restaurant owners and staff who have been struggling through this time. But it is up to all of us to ensure compliance and the health and safety of those around us,” he said.
Cuomo estimates that as many as 10,000 restaurants will need to be inspected for COVID-19 health precautions, and said that the city will provide an additional 400 inspectors to join the state’s task force, CNBC reported.
Additionally, restaurants will be required to post a phone number that customers can call to report any health violations.
“I believe in New Yorkers’ ability to do the right thing. That’s not blind faith,” Cuomo said. “New Yorkers I think are more informed about Covid than anyone in the country.”
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