New York City restaurants could reopen indoor dining starting on Valentine’s Day, Cuomo says


A sign welcomes customers to indoor dining at a restaurant in Brooklyn on December 01, 2020 in New York City.

Spencer Platt | Getty Images

New York City restaurants will be allowed to reopen for indoor dining at limited capacity beginning on Feb. 14 as long as Covid-19 cases continue to remain stable, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Friday.

Beginning on Valentine’s Day, New York City restaurants will be allowed to reopen their indoor dining sections at 25% capacity. The roughly two-week period will allow for the restaurants to alert their employees and order additional supplies, Cuomo said.

The city’s restaurants were ordered to close their indoor dining sections beginning Dec. 14 amid a spike in Covid-19 cases that was projected to worsen during the holiday season. For weeks, restaurants have only been able to serve customers for takeout and delivery, as well as offer outdoor seating.

However, the Democratic governor has repeatedly said this week that the state’s post-holiday coronavirus outbreak appears to be over, allowing for a slow reopening of businesses across New York. New York City’s positivity rate, or the percentage of all Covid-19 tests returning positive, has dropped from a high of 7.1% on Jan. 5 to just below 5% as of Jan. 28, according to the governor.

“All the models project that number to continue to drop,” Cuomo said at a press briefing in Albany.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio told CNBC’s “The Exchange” following the governor’s announcement that it’s going to “take some work” to ensure restaurants are safe and ready to reopen their indoor dining sections before Valentine’s Day.

Guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that dining inside can pose a higher risk of infection since people interact for long periods of time and will take their masks off to eat or drink. However, that risk can be reduced if a restaurant frequently disinfects surfaces and people wash their hands and wear their masks as often as possible, among other precautions.

“I think it’s great that our restaurants have come back, but we need tight protocols, regular inspections, to make sure people are safe,” de Blasio told CNBC.

Some industry experts have been concerned that 25% capacity for indoor dining may not be enough for restaurants to stay afloat. Other restaurants across New York outside the city are allowed to operate at 50% occupancy, and the state’s standards “are being applied inequitably in the five boroughs without a transparent and data-driven system for further reopening the city’s restaurant economy,” Andrew Rigie, executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance, said in a statement.

“Look, 25% is better than zero, and that’s where we are now,” Cuomo said at a press briefing. “If the numbers continue to get better, that number will go up.”

The governor also outlined a plan to allow some venues to reopen for wedding ceremonies. Beginning on March 15, people will be able to hold a wedding if everyone attending is tested before the event and the organizers receive approval from their local health department beforehand.

The venues will be capped at 50% capacity or 150 people in attendance. The state is adding more rapid Covid-19 testing capacity and is developing an app that will help with contact tracing, Cuomo said.

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