New York City restaurant operators are not ruling out legal action to compel city leaders to make a plan for the return of dine-in operations there.
Without dine-in business, many more restaurants will close their doors permanently, especially as the weather turns colder and outdoor dining becomes less hospitable, according to operators who spoke at a virtual press conference Wednesday sponsored by the NYC Hospitality Alliance.
“We’re known to be cooperative team players,” Robert Bookman, general counsel for the group, said. “We’ve never brought a lawsuit in our history. All legal options are on the table.”
Restaurants across New York state have been allowed to open at 50% capacity—but not those in New York City. Gyms across the state, including New York City, are allowed to reopen at 33% capacity in the coming weeks.
New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio indefinitely postponed plans to resume indoor dining on July 6. Earlier this week, De Blasio said indoor dining may not return until there is a coronavirus vaccine.
“Outdoor dining has helped almost 10,000 restaurants to bring in a whole lot more revenue, takeout and delivery has been a part of what restaurants could do from the very beginning of the crisis, that will continue no matter what,” he said, according to media reports. “The most important thing is to get to a point where we have a vaccine, and then we can really come back but we’re going to be very careful.”
De Blasio’s office, in response to a Restaurant Business request to comment on the NYC Hospitality Alliance’s demands, said indoor dining and drinking remains a significant concern for the spread of the coronavirus.
"We know that any place that is indoors is riskier than any place outdoors and we know that anywhere where you can't wear face protection is riskier than a place where you can," Senior Advisor Dr. Jay Varma said.
The mayor's office did not provide any further information on restaurant reopening plans.
“All we’re asking for is communication,” Alfredo Angueira, owner of several restaurants in the Bronx, said during the press conference. “We have bills that have been mounting. We need guidance. The fabric of New York City is at stake, in terms of what this city is going to look like going forward.”
New state regulations in New York have effectively halted eviction proceedings filed during the pandemic until October.
“We have been artificially propping up restaurants right now,” Andrew Rigie, executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance, said. “The number (of closures) over the next six to 12 to 18 months will continue to grow. I suspect it’ll be in the thousands.”
UPDATE: This story has been updated with information from Mayor Bill De Blasio's office.