- New York City restaurants must shutter indoor dining starting Monday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Friday. The restaurant restrictions come as the city is on track to soon reach 90% of its hospital capacity, at which point Cuomo would shut down all nonessential businesses, The New York Times reports.
- Cuomo said the indoor dining ban is meant to avoid this broader shutdown, stating that restaurants and bars are "one of the few areas that we think we can actually make a difference." Cuomo also called on the federal government to give the hospitality industry financial relief.
- The New York City Hospitality Alliance said in an email Friday that the indoor dining ban "is at odds with the State's own data that's been presented as driving these decisions, and it will be the last straw for countless more restaurants and jobs." Manhattan has a positivity rate of 2.7%, which is less than half of New York counties where indoor dining is still allowed, like Albany (7.2%) and Suffolk (6.1%), NYCHA claims.
Restaurants across the country have struggled with disparate dining restrictions based on municipal strategies to keep local COVID-19 cases from spreading uncontrollably. But urban operators have arguably been hit the hardest, as state and city governments impose stricter guidelines in these markets to protect dense populations.
The current New York City restaurant scene is emblematic of the toll several rounds of these bans take over time. An estimated 1,000 of Queens' 6,000 restaurants have closed during the pandemic, for example, Queens Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Tom Grech told The Wall Street Journal. Grech worries another 2,000 restaurant businesses could go under in the coming months. This closure rate does not bode well for the city's other boroughs, or its outlook overall.
New York City restaurants have already been through the ringer. In October, local eateries endured a wave of contradictory guidance issued by Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio before a "Cluster Action Plan" devised by Cuomo took effect, closing indoor dining at some restaurants just eight days after they were allowed to reopen for the first time since April.
New York City restaurants that were allowed to offer indoor dining before Monday were capped at 25% capacity, while bars and restaurants in the rest of the state have been allowed to seat 50% capacity. Many operators have said that a 25% capacity cap is already a near-death sentence for a restaurant, and this new total indoor dining ban — which does not have a specified end date — could do irreversible damage as cold weather reduces diner interest in outdoor seating.
Cuomo said on Friday that restaurants and bars are the fifth main source of new infections in the state of New York, according to contract tracing data. But this data only comes from individuals who respond to contract tracers, so it isn't reflective of every infection in the state. Between September and November, 1.4% of 46,000 COVID-19 cases were linked to restaurants and bars, compared to 73.8% linked to private gatherings, The New York Times reports.