Indoor dining returns citywide at 25 percent capacity

Bryanna Vaquero, left, eats lunch with her mother, Andrea, and father, Javier, inside The Bridgeview Diner in Bay Ridge on Sept. 30, the first day of indoor dining in New York City since the pandemic began.
Photo by Caroline Ourso

Restaurants resumed indoor dining at quarter-capacity in the city Wednesday for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic hit the five boroughs, and Mayor Bill de Blasio cautioned that, as eateries allow patrons in, they must do so while adhering to city and state health guidelines.

“It’s crucial of course bringing back more jobs and helping businesses survive but health and safety always come first, so there will be very clear conditions and restrictions and rules here,” de Blasio said at his daily press briefing Sept. 30.

Dining establishments will have to follow a set of rules in order to allow customers in including:

  • No more than 25 percent seating capacity
  • Temperature checks for indoor diners at the front door
  • Collecting contact information for each party for the city’s Test and Trace Corps
  • Spacing tables at least six feet apart
  • Bar tops remain closed for seating
  • Provide personal protective equipment and other protections for employees

The city’s Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi added that it was important for business owners to also make sure that their workers were in good health.

“It’s very important for us to think both about the health of people who will be going to restaurants but also the people who are working in them,” Dr. Chokshi said.

The Health Department will deploy inspectors starting today, who will make sure restaurateurs follow these rules, with a focus on nine ZIP codes in Brooklyn and Queens, where the city has logged troublesome upticks in COVID infections and account for a quarter of all cases citywide in the last two weeks, de Blasio said, who added that rule-skirting operations might be issued summonses or even shut down.

“If we find non-compliance we’re gonna have to be aggressive, both in terms of fines where appropriate, or even if we had to get to a shutdown, we would go in that direction,” Hizzoner said. “But the goal is to avoid that if we can solve the problem and ensure it stays solved.”

Sandra Schwartz, Andrea Schwartz and Terry Haviland enjoy a light meal at Fort Hamilton Diner on Wednesday.Photo by Caroline Ourso

De Blasio recommended restaurant owners consult the city’s site on restaurant reopening if they seek more information and guidelines at nyc.gov/restaurantreopening.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced indoor dining’s return to the city on Sept. 9, after allowing businesses to move their tables and chairs outside in June.

Indoor dining at 25 percent capacity has been allowed across the river in New Jersey since Sept. 4 and in other parts of New York State, 50 percent capacity indoor dining has been operating for months.

But while some New Yorkers will venture back indoors, the mayor said he’ll stick to al-fresco dining for now, while the weather’s still warm.

“My outdoor dining experiences have been amazing. I’m going to keep doing that for the foreseeable future. And then, of course, shift to indoor when the outdoor isn’t as prevalent because of the weather,” de Blasio said.

He also praised the Open Restaurants and Open Streets program, which he announced Friday would continue year-round.

The mayor also took a swipe at President Donald Trump for calling the Big Apple a “ghost town” during Tuesday night’s presidential debate, saying the streets have come back to life from quarantine closures in no small part due to Gotham’s dining destinations.

“Some people like to allege that New York City is a quote-unquote ghost town,” de Blasio said. “I would urge those people to go see the booked-solid outdoor dining all over this city that’s been such a success and I congratulate everyone in the restaurant industry for achieving that and bringing back all those jobs.”