- Indoor dining will resume in New York City Sept. 30, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said during a press conference on Wednesday. Occupancy will be limited to 25% and all patrons must have their temperatures taken upon arrival. One member per party will be required to provide contact information if tracing is required.
- Additional requirements include no service after midnight, and no patrons are allowed to sit at the bar in restaurants. Masks must be worn when patrons are not seated at tables, tables must be six feet apart and restaurants must meet enhanced air filtration, ventilation and purification standards, Cuomo said.
- Reopening dining rooms will be welcome news to NYC restaurateurs, especially since 100 operators banded together in August to sue the city over dining room restrictions. Reopening indoor dining was postponed indefinitely in July following an increase in virus cases across the country and concerns over those cases trickling back to New York, according to The New York Times.
Bringing back indoor dining will be key to a restaurant’s survival, especially with 63.6% of New York restaurants saying they are likely to close by the end of the year if they don't receive any targeted government assistance, according to a survey by the New York State Restaurant Association. Over 80% of NYC restaurants said they couldn't pay full rent in July.
"The New York City restaurant industry has been financially devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic and a safe return to indoor dining is critical to help save these vital small businesses and jobs," the New York City Hospitality Alliance said in an emailed statement. "We're thankful to Governor Cuomo for announcing a return to indoor dining with a blueprint for future expansion. Restaurants are essential to New York's economic and social fabric, and indoor dining is a key component to the industry's recovery."
Outdoor dining, which the governor threatened to do away with in August following a lack of compliance, will be allowed to continue alongside indoor dining, Cuomo said, adding that outdoor dining will work in September but could get dicey beginning in October depending on the weather.
The city has been more cautious with allowing indoor dining after the rest of the state, which has been able to function at 50% of dining room capacity for much of the summer, saw clusters of outbreaks stemming from restaurants. Compliance has also been lacking across the city, Cuomo said. But bars reached 99.2% compliance as of early September, which helped the state move into 25% of indoor dining, Cuomo said.
Compliance will still need to be top of mind at restaurants. First-time violators will receive a fine while more egregious offenders could lose their operating licenses, Cuomo said.
"If you know someone is going to check, if you know there's monitoring, people tend to increase compliance," Cuomo said. "For a bar or a restaurant, if you lose your liquor license, that is very serious business."
The city will provide 400 inspectors to make sure restaurants are following guidelines. The governor and the New York Restaurant Association will also call upon New Yorkers to call, text or report violations anonymously. Safety is a priority for a majority of consumers, according to Dataessential, so diners will likely be acutely aware of violations, especially when it comes to sanitary conditions.