Restaurant service to remain outside during Phase Three of reopening, Cuomo confirms

The spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in New York
Eateries will remain outdoor only for the time being, both Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday.
REUTERS/Jeenah Moon

Restaurants can no longer open indoor seating during Phase Three of reopening, the governor confirmed Wednesday shortly after Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the same thing.

The delay will only affect New York City, which will begin Phase Three of its reopening on July 6, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. Some regions, such as the capital region, will move into Phase Four, and parts of the state allowed indoor dining weeks ago.

“It’s going to be postponed until the facts change and it is proven to open,” Cuomo said during a press briefing. “The facts have to change because at this point it is imprudent.”

Cuomo made thinly-veiled jabs at Mayor Bill de Blasio for making the same announcement earlier today, allegedly without authority. 

“Local governments don’t have any legal authority to determine openings reopening of schools, businesses, restaurants offices, that’s not what the local governments do,” he said. “That’s a function of state government.”

Cuomo complained that local governments are slacking in their enforcement of social distancing compliance, citing photos of large gatherings taken across the Five Boroughs, and announced the state would be forming its own enforcement department that will supplement local police departments. The governor said he fears a lack of enforcement combined with a lack of compliance from New Yorkers could lead to a resurgence in the virus. 

“If you have citizen compliance dropping, and you don’t have local governments enforcing, then you’re going to see the virus go up, period,” Cuomo said. 

The state’s decision to delay indoor dining comes as states across the country are seeing huge upticks of COVID-19 cases, with countless outbreaks tied to crowded bars and restaurants. An analysis by JPMorgan found that states with higher restaurant spending had outbreaks of the virus three weeks later, with in-person restaurant spending being “particularly predictive.”

Hospitality groups said they respected the government’s decision, but that more needed to be done to prevent New York’s eateries from going belly-up while they operate at a reduced level, such as rent relief and expanded outdoor dining. 

“The longer neighborhood restaurants and bars are forced to be close, the harder it will be for them to ever successfully open,” said Andrew Rigie, executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance. “This makes it even more urgent to forgive rent, expand outdoor dining, and enact other responsive policies to save our city’s beloved small businesses and jobs.”