Restaurants in New York City will be allowed to put 25% of their indoor seating back into use starting Feb. 14—Valentine’s Day—if coronavirus infection rates remain on their current encouraging trajectory, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday.
Restaurants in the celebrated market have been limited to takeout and delivery since Dec. 14. Local operators and their representatives have repeatedly warned that places would continue to close for good at a head-turning rate if the governor didn’t give a green light soon for resuming indoor seating.
The governor has not disagreed. "The restaurant industry is the lifeblood of New York City and the economic hardship they have endured at the hands of COVID is nothing short of tragic,” Cuomo said in a statement announcing that restrictions there would be eased.
The Democrat said he delayed the re-start several weeks for two reasons. “This doesn't only give us more time to stamp out the virus even further, but also gives restaurants ample notice to begin preparing for a reopening,” Cuomo said.
The Big Apple’s celebrated restaurant community is not happy about the delay. “Restaurants in the city are ready to safely open now,” the New York City Hospitality Alliance said in a statement. Local eateries “are broken-hearted that they need to wait two weeks until Valentine’s Day to open at only 25% occupancy in the city while permitting 50% occupancy in dining rooms around the rest of the state where infections and hospitalization rates from COVID-19 are higher.”
Still, “It’s good news that Gov. Cuomo heard the voice of New York City’s struggling restaurant industry and is lifting the ban,” the association said.
The five boroughs are the last areas of the state to be limited to off-premise business. Restaurants virtually everywhere else have been operating at 50% capacities for months.
Jurisdictions across the nation have been easing restrictions that were re-imposed to flatten a holiday spike in new coronavirus cases, a result of ill-advised socializing and large-scale gatherings from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day, health officials say.
New York City was a hot spot of COVID-19 cases early in the pandemic. Even with a more recent deceleration of new infections, 12,579 New Yorkers tested positive for the illness on Friday.