- New York City’s restaurants may be forced to return to only takeout and delivery in the fall to stall a second wave of coronavirus cases, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters on a conference call Wednesday, CNBC reports.
- Cuomo claimed that New York City’s restaurants have “a much bigger problem” with lack of compliance with COVID-19 restrictions than in surrounding areas, though that assertion has been disputed. Unlike other parts of the state, the city’s restaurants have not been allowed to return to reduced-capacity indoor dining.
- Restaurant operators in the city have indicated their willingness to pursue legal action in the face of an indefinite halt to indoor dining, according to Restaurant Business. Executive Director of NYC Hospitality Andrew Rigie predicted this week that restaurant closures could be “in the thousands” over the next six to 18 months.
Restaurant operators have expressed concerns that as temperatures drop, diners’ openness to outdoor dining will dwindle. However, Cuomo’s remarks in a press conference this week reflect his continued reluctance to progress toward reopening, citing the potential of a second wave of coronavirus cases, the risks posed by the city’s high population density and impending flu season.
But operators warn that without a dine-in plan, the city’s restaurant industry will be decimated. Prior to the pandemic, the city had more restaurants, cafes, and food stores per capita than anywhere else in the country
A recent NYC Hospitality Alliance reports found that over 80% of the city’s businesses were not able to pay full rent in July, and many independent businesses raised alarm in May that solely takeout and delivery were not bringing in enough revenue to cover their costs. A New York Times report on Yelp data estimated that over 2,800 businesses in the city have closed since March 1, and the city's financial budget documented a 90% drop in restaurant spending in late March, when operations were restricted to solely takeout and delivery ordering.
For many of the city's restaurants, especially those concentrated in business districts, outdoor dining may not be financially sustainable in the long term, and a return to delivery and takeout-only could be devastating.
Statewide, 150 restaurants and bars have had their liquor licenses revoked for failing to adhere to coronavirus safety requirements as part of Cuomo’s "Three Strikes and You’re Closed" policy. Cuomo asserts that compliance with social distancing has been particularly lax in the city, however a Politico report found that the city’s enforcement measures were largely in line with that in municipalities elsewhere in the state.
Local and state officials have mentioned the difficulties of enforcing mask wearing in dining rooms, as well as upsurges in coronavirus cases across multiple regions as their justification for indefinitely halting indoor dining. A significant portion of community outbreaks this summer have been traced to bars and restaurants, including roughly a quarter of Louisiana's cases since March and 12% of Maryland’s cases in the month of July.
Epidemiologists say that outdoor and patio dining carries a lower likelihood of virus spread. Lindsey Leininger, a health policy researcher at Dartmouth, told The New York Times that they "hadn’t traced a major U.S. outbreak of any sort to an outdoor exposure." However, restaurant staff serving a number of parties are placed at greater risk than with takeout service. Restaurant architect Marites Abueg suggested that restaurants could minimize the danger to workers by reducing touchpoints, such as eliminating table service in favor of window ordering.