NYC restaurants begin offering indoor dining at 25% capacity

Coronavirus NYC restaurant
Photo credit Spencer Platt/Getty Images
By WCBS Newsradio 880

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) -- Indoor dining resumes in New York City on Wednesday at 25% capacity, a milestone for restaurants six months after the pandemic began.

Like expanded outdoor dining a few months ago, limited indoor dining will be an experiment for restaurants.

At 5 Napkin Burger on the Upper West Side, owner Robert Guarino said 25% capacity is a start.

“You know, 25% will not help many people return to profitability, but it is a step in the right direction,” he said.

Guarino said his restaurant will be ready for indoor dining this week.

“We’re going to spread people out to different areas, making sure we’re maintaining six feet between guests. But 25% doesn’t require a lot of remaking of the dining rooms, it’s just a matter of spreading people out and controlling capacity,” he said.

Guarino said customers will need to do their part as well.

“By the New York state regulations, everybody will have their temperature checked on their way in the door. And then at least one guest from each party will need to leave contact information,” he said.

Restaurants will have to wait and see if diners feel comfortable eating indoors. Without tourists and office workers, they’re relying on the neighborhood locals who have kept them afloat throughout the pandemic.

Not all restaurants will open for indoor dining Wednesday. While it’s a huge milestone for the struggling industry, Andrew Rigie, who heads the NYC Hospitality Alliance, said it doesn’t make sense for every restaurant.

“They may wait until we get to 50%,” Rigie said. “But at the end of the day, even 100% occupancy was really hard to survive.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio has said that the city may close indoor dining if positive test rates go above 3% on a rolling seven-day average citywide.