The day restaurants citywide have been waiting for is finally here: Governor Cuomo announced Wednesday that indoor dining can resume in New York City on September 30.
The announcement comes with a list of restrictions and rules intended to prevent further spread of COVID-19. Restaurants will start at 25% capacity. If the citywide infection rate stays low, restaurants can increase their indoor capacity to 50% on November 1. But if the infection rate goes back up, restaurants may be forced to shut down again.
Still, the announcement is good news for local restaurants. For months, establishments have been pleading with the mayor and governor to release a plan for a return to operating indoors, particularly since the infection rate has remained below 1% for the past month.
The service and hospitality industry has suffered considerably due to COVID-19, and the push for indoor dining was a push for its continued survival. The pandemic has been especially tough on bars and restaurants, an industry that recently employed more than 315,000 New Yorkers but has been operating at a fraction of its usual business since the city reopened. Thousands of establishments, including some of New York’s most storied diners and watering holes, have shuttered for good or shouldered a huge financial burden since the pandemic started.
Here are the restrictions for when indoor dining service relaunches at the end of the month:
—25% occupancy limit
—All patrons must get their temperature checked at the door
—At least one member of each party must leave contact information for potential contact tracing if an infected person is linked to the establishment
—Service must end at midnight. (You can finish your meal if still seated but must be out by 12:30a.)
—No bar service will be allowed; table service only
—Masks must be worn by diners at all times except when seated
—Tables must be 6 feet apart
—Establishments must adhere to enhanced air filtration, ventilation and purification standards, though specific details on these standards are not yet available
It’s unclear how many bars and restaurants closed so far, but a New York Times report in August said as many as one-third of small businesses may have been lost for good. Expanded outdoor dining, which was introduced in June, is currently slated to last through October — it has been a hit with patrons, and some hope it will get extended indefinitely. Still, industry leaders have complained the governor’s restrictions and enforcement have been too severe, causing even more financial problems.
If you’re planning to do some indoor dining, remember to wear your mask when talking to your server and tip generously. It’s going to be a long recovery.