Cuomo: Indoor dining to resume at limited capacity on Valentine’s Day

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

Now you have no excuse not to have a date this Valentine’s Day.

New York City restaurants will resume indoor dining at 25 percent capacity on Feb. 14, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Friday, citing the city’s dropping infection rate and stating with confidence that positive tests will continue to fall.

According to state data, New York City’s infection rate peaked at 7.1 percent on Jan. 4, and has fallen to 4.9 percent since then. The state’s dataset differs from the City of New York’s data, which listed the city’s infection rate at over 8 percent today.

Cuomo also intends to allow weddings and wedding venues to operate again with up to 150 guests after March 15 — with an emphasis on rapid COVID testing for all guests.

“You could make a reservation now or plan dinner on Valentine’s Day, you propose on Valentine’s day, and then you can have the wedding ceremony March 15, up to 150 people,” he said. “People will actually come to your wedding because you can tell them with the testing it will be safe, everyone there will have been tested.”

Hospitality groups celebrated Cuomo’s decision but questioned the logic of making struggling restaurants wait over two weeks to reopen and only allowing 25 percent capacity while establishments outside of the city, where infection rates are higher in some regions, are allowed 50 percent capacity.

“Unfortunately, once again 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,” said Andrew Rigie, executive director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance. 

Others criticized Cuomo for allowing restaurants to reopen before restaurant workers are eligible for the coronavirus vaccine, and called on the governor to expand eligibility to include hospitality workers. 

“The governor must make the vaccine available immediately for all service industry workers who will be working,” tweeted Manhattan City Council candidate Marti Cummings.

Studies have shown indoor dining to be a high-risk activity during the pandemic, with some data showing that six feet of distance is not enough to prevent infection in an indoor mask-less setting.