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Governor Cuomo has said this morning that New York City is on track to enter Phase 2 on Monday. So what does that mean?
Essential and Phase 2 in-store retail (this does not apply to malls like Hudson Yards and Shops at Columbus Circle, which remain closed).
Salons and barbershops.
Real estate services.
Commercial building management.
Offices (although many will still work from home).
The biggest challenge is that outdoor dining will be allowed – but there are very limited guidelines for restaurants and bars. This lack of clarity was clear at Mayor de Blasio’s briefing this morning. He said: “We have to find ways to help our restaurants. There are a lot of different options on the table. We intend to put out a policy very, very soon. Everything is being looked at. Obviously people are preparing for Phase 2. We need to get that out immediately, we are just fine-tuning it.” You can watch a video of his full response here.
Yesterday we reported that the Mayor was given a list of streets to open to pedestrians on April 16, over two months ago. The only opening in Hell’s Kitchen was W51st St – 9th/10th Ave that has become a contentious area where large groups gathered with limited mask-wearing or and social distancing.
DOT guidelines for restaurants so far deal mainly with complying to ensure seating is accessible, that bus stops or fire hydrants are not blocked, and seating is located away from intersections. They also made it clear that restaurants must provide their own vertical barricades, planters, tables, and chairs.
West Bank Cafe owner Steve Olsen shared the views of many Hell’s Kitchen restaurateurs, saying: “As attractive as Phase 2 sounds to small businesses such as restaurants, it’s still only a small portion of what restaurants need to make in order to survive. It’s probably more expensive to open up ‘small’ than to be completely closed for many restaurant operators. That being said, baby steps are better than no steps.”
For many businesses there was a frustration with a lack of clarity from the city. “How can we do this? Do we need a different sidewalk license? How many tables per square ft? Plastic utensils? Plates?” asked Luis Garcia, manager at Arriba Arriba. “We got fined for our vestibule in the winter for being eight inches more than the city allowed. We don’t know if it will be a full waiter/tress service or just space for people to sit down and eat what they buy at the door. We hope to get clear guidance and rules on what we can or cannot implement. We’ve been trying to establish a system which works one week and the next week everything is new.”
Luis shared with us the NY State guidelines that have been issued to restaurants. However, all restaurants still remain unclear as to whether they are allowed outdoor seating in New York City.
We are waiting for more feedback on this announcement from restaurant owners and will be adding to this story. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any more information/comments.