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New York restaurants likely to see tighter service limits starting Monday

Indoor dining would be discontinued in New York City and curtailed to 25% of capacities in most other areas.
Photograph: Shutterstock

Restaurants in New York will be required to curtail indoor dining as of Monday unless the rate of new coronavirus infections drops from its current level, a slim likelihood, Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned Monday.

Indoor dining would cease in New York City and “micro-areas” with especially high infection rates, while interior seating through the rest of the state would be cut back to 25% of capacities from the current level of 50%, the governor said.

The service restrictions will be imposed unless the positivity rate—the percentage of persons who test positive for COVID-19—drops below 3%. “Frankly, I don’t expect it to,” Cuomo said during his daily press briefing.  

New York City’s positivity rate has exceeded 3% for eight consecutive days. Statewide, the rate for the most recent seven days has averaged about 4.9%. Although the percentages mark significant upswings from summer levels, they still rank among the lowest gauges in the country.

The possibility of another reduction or shutdown of indoor restaurant dining drew a sharp and immediate outcry from the industry.

With the looming limits on indoor dining and outdoor dining no longer practical, many of our members will be forced to shut their doors, and for some it may be their final service,” Melissa Fleischut, CEO of the New York State Restaurant Association (NYSRA), said in a statement. “Based on today’s news, many restaurants will have no other choice, and hundreds of thousands of restaurant employees will be laid off during the holidays. “

The New York City Hospitality Alliance, a group representing restaurants, taverns and bars in the state and nation’s largest city, said it sees no reason to single out restaurants for a shutdown.

“New York City’s highly regulated, reduced occupancy, well ventilated and COVID-19 compliant restaurants have gone above and beyond to protect the health and safety of their customers and employees,” said Executive Director Andrew Rigie. “Indeed, Gov. Cuomo said that 70% of recent cases come from ‘living room’ spread, not restaurants, and the N.Y.C. Department of Health has zero data demonstrating that increased infection rates are a result of our highly restricted restaurants.”

Both the state and local trade group used Cuomo’s warning as an occasion to press once again for direct financial aid from the federal government, a development the governor and a guest at his press conference today, U.S. health czar Dr. Andrew Fauci, both championed during the event as a way of helping the nation through the crisis.

“As we just heard Governor Cuomo and Dr. Anthony Fauci say today, the restaurant industry is on life support and will die without financial assistance from the federal government,” remarked the NYSRA’s Fleischut.

“Another forced government closure of New York City restaurants will cause an irreversible harm on even countless more small businesses and the hundreds of thousands of workers they employ, especially if it is not coupled with financial relief,” said Rigie.

On Monday morning, the National Restaurant Association ratcheted up pressure on Congress to pass some level of direct financial aid, warning in a letter that the industry will shrink dramatically without a lifeline.

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