NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo has given the green light for New York City restaurants to begin indoor dining starting Sept. 30. Capacity will be limited to 25% and there will be other strict restrictions in place.
All patrons will be required to get a temperature check at the door and at least one member of each table will need to provide contact information for track and trace purposes in the event of positive coronavirus cases in the establishment, the governor said Wednesday.
Restaurants should operate with new or improved ventilation systems or limit air recirculation, tables must be spaced six feet apart and diners will also be required to wear masks at all times when not seated. Restaurants will also be required to close at or before midnight.
No bar service will be available, meaning alcohol cannot be served without food. Bars inside restaurants can only be used to make drinks to bring to tables.
Outdoor dining will continue until at least Sept. 30 in the interim. Cuomo said the state will make a decision on or before Nov. 1 as to whether restaurants in the city can increase to 50% capacity.
"We could do it at any time before Nov. 1, but we have Nov. 1 as a benchmark where we could go to 50%," the governor said.
To ensure compliance with coronavirus guidelines, New York City will provide 400 code enforcement inspectors to work with an expanded State Liquor Authority and State Police Task Force. They will be tasked with checking around 10,000 locations with compliance.
"Even with the state expanding the task force and the city adding 400 code compliance inspectors to that task force, 10,000 is still a very large universe, so I have a new idea. The new idea to assist with compliance is this: New Yorkers themselves will help with compliance," Cuomo said. "New Yorkers will keep New Yorkers safe. The New York Community is the best compliance unit."
To report non-compliance, New Yorkers can call 833-208-4160 or text 855-904-5036. All reports will remain annonymous. More information can be found at ny.gov/nycindoordining.
The governor said restaurants can take this next step in the reopening because compliance has gotten better.
Following the governor's announcement, Mayor Bill de Blasio issued a statement saying, “We are continuing New York City’s economic recovery by bringing back indoor dining. Working with the state and public health officials, we’ve achieved a plan that puts health and safety first by including strict capacity limits, a close monitoring of citywide positive testing rates and a coordinated inspection regimen. Science will guide our decision-making as we continue to monitor progress and health care indicators over the next three weeks to ensure a safe reopening. This may not look like the indoor dining that we all know and love, but it is progress for restaurant workers and all New Yorkers.”
If New York City hits 2% in COVID-19 positivity rates, the city will immediately reassess.
Nearly 200 struggling restaurants in the five boroughs had filed a class action lawsuit against de Blasio and Cuomo demanding indoor dining return before the announcement Wednesday.
Andrew Rigie, executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance said a safe return to indoor dining is critical to help the city's restaurant industry.
“We’re thankful to Governor Cuomo for announcing a return to indoor dining with a blueprint for future expansion," Rigie said. "Restaurants are essential to New York’s economic and social fabric, and indoor dining is a key component to the industry’s recovery.”
Currently, New York City is the only area in the Tri-State that does not allow some form of indoor dining.
The return to indoor restaurants was put on hold when New York City entered Phase 4 in June over concerns about spikes in cases in other areas that had eased restrictions on dining.
"For a long time what we saw around the world was that indoor dining, unfortunately, could spark a much worse situation in terms of the coronavirus," de Blasio said at his daily briefing Wednesday prior to the governor's announcement. "The question for us has been, is there some way to do indoor dining that can be truly safe and with standards that are very tight?"
Cuomo last week said that he wants indoor dining to return in New York City, but added that he would not give the go ahead until the city develops a plan to monitor restaurants’ compliance with coronavirus guidelines.
Cuomo on Wednesday announced New York state’s coronavirus infection rate has remained below 1 percent for 33 consecutive days.
Of the 63,230 tests reported yesterday, 576 were positive — or 0.91%. Total hospitalizations are at 463. The state also reported three coronavirus-related deaths.