New York will drop capacity limits and nearly all other restrictions on restaurants starting May 19, the same day New Jersey and Connecticut lift their curbs on dining out, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday.
Masks will continue to be required in New York, as they will be in the neighboring states. New York will also still require establishments to keep parties at least six feet apart. A curfew on indoor restaurant service will remain in effect until May 31.
Exceptions will be made to the six-foot requirement for restaurants that limit their clientele to individuals who can prove they are fully vaccinated. At the instigation of the governor, New York has developed a vaccine passport in digital form called the Excelsior Pass. The app-based passports enable users to prove that they’ve been vaccinated by flashing a QR code on their smartphones.
Cuomo’s announcement comes just weeks after restaurants in many areas of New York were urging the governor to lift lighter restrictions as the nightly curfew and a prohibition against using bar stools for seating. The curfew on indoor service will not be lifted until May 31.
To assist restaurants in ramping back up, Cuomo said he would also end the curfew on travel by subway. In pre-pandemic days, the trains had run 24 hours a day. Since February, all lines suspended service between 2 and 4 a.m. “People are going to be working until 4 a.m. again,” Cuomo said.
He called the termination of capacity restrictions “a milestone for New York state, and a significant moment of transition.” New York was harder hit than any other state early in the pandemic by the rapid spread of COVID-19. In more recent months, it has led much of the nation in the speed of getting its population vaccinated, but Cuomo had pursued an admittedly conservative approach to reopening the state.
New York is the nation’s fourth-largest restaurant market, behind California, Texas and Florida. California Gov. Gavin Newsom has pledged to drop most restrictions in businesses within his state on June 15. Texas and Florida have already dropped all limits on restaurants.