Cuomo: Indoor dining can resume with new health guidelines

indoor dining
Ted Nugent (center), the co-owner of Cebu restaurant on Third Avenue in Bay Ridge, said he was thrilled that the governor is allowing indoor dining to resume in New York City.
Photo by Paul Frangipane

New York City will finally start to open indoor dining at the end of the month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Wednesday.

Restaurants will have to follow strict guidelines to be able to open at 25-percent capacity, such as conducting temperature checks at the door and listing contact information for each party that would be used for contact tracing if necessary, Cuomo said.  

Eateries will also have to space tables at least six feet apart, suspend all bar service, install enhanced air filtration and ventilation systems, and close before midnight, among other rules. Repeated or egregious violations could result in the loss of a restaurant’s license to operate, Cuomo said.

Indoor seating capacity could go up to 50 percent in November if the number of COVID-19 cases remain low — but if New York City’s coronavirus positivity rate rises to two percent, the city will reassess the whole plan, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

“We are continuing New York City’s economic recovery by bringing back indoor dining. Working with the state and public health officials, we’ve achieved a plan that puts health and safety first by including strict capacity limits, a close monitoring of citywide positive testing rates and a coordinated inspection regimen,” said de Blasio in a statement.

The reopening of indoor dining thrilled many restaurant owners, who were worried about the suspension of outdoor dining later this fall.

“I’m grateful that they’re giving us the opportunity to come back inside. I was very worried about the survival not only of my business, but my friends who are in the restaurant business,” said Ted Nugent, the co-owner of beloved Bay Ridge bistro Cebu.”I’m concerned about New York on a whole and I think the hospitality industry is a very important makeup of what makes New York what it is.”

Nugent, who operates the eatery with business partner Michael Esposito, acknowledged that operating at 25-percent capacity is not sustainable in the long term. He said he hopes that the government will increase the maximum capacity over time. 

“Twenty-five percent in reality is not a sustainable way for this business to operate. As everyone knows, when we’re at 100 percent capacity, it’s still a very trying industry,” he said. “Twenty-five percent just gives us an opportunity to start preparing to go back to hopefully what will be a normal way for us to run our businesses.”

In addition to the added help from the city, Cuomo stated that New York City residents can help with restaurants comply with indoor dining regulations.

“New Yorkers will keep New Yorkers safe,” said Cuomo. “The New York community is the best compliance unit. New Yorkers have shown all through this they have forged community.”

The announcement comes less than a week after a group of Brooklyn restaurant owners joined with local pols to plead for a plan to permit indoor dining, and as some lawmakers threatened to join city restaurants in taking Cuomo and de Blasio to court over the issue.

“If we don’t get inside before the winter, I really feel in my heart, 75 to 80 percent, at least, of restaurants in New York City will never open again,” said Stephen Oliver, the co-owner of Chadwick’s restaurant in Bay Ridge. “I have never, ever gone through anything as tough as we are right now.”

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

This story first appeared on AMNY.com.