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Governor Andrew Cuomo says that he will follow the new CDC guidelines issued on Friday about the risks of indoor dining. He said at his Monday morning briefing that if the hospitalization rate doesn’t stabilize in New York City in the next 5 days, then indoor dining at 25% will close entirely in the city. Elsewhere in New York State, restaurants will be reduced from 50% capacity to 25% on the same basis.
Cuomo said although not inevitable, it will only change “if New Yorkers change their behavior this week”. The restaurant indoor closure would go into effect next Monday, December 14.
He added that as the CDC had not currently made similar recommendations around gyms and hair salons, they would not be forced to close at this time.
The Governor was joined at the briefing by Dr Anthony Fauci, who made it clear that the closures should come with economic support for business owners. “To close the bars and keep the schools open is the best thing to do, so long as you subsidize and help the restaurant owners and the bar owners so that they don’t go down and essentially crash because of the economic strain,” said Dr Fauci.
Cuomo agreed, passing the financial burden to the federal government: “I think you’re exactly right. The CDC says more restrictions on indoor dining, which I understand. But Congress in Washington also has to understand those bars, those restaurants, they need financial assistance because this has been a long year and they have bills to pay. So you can’t tell them, ‘we have to close you down’ without saying ‘here’s the economic reality and we’re going to help’.”
The announcement heaps more pressure on local restaurants and bars fighting to survive the pandemic and the winter. Many have already closed or taken a decision to go into hibernation until the spring.
Daniele Kucera form Etcetera Etcetera told us “this might be the final nail in the coffin”.
“No help is coming our way, at least for now and now is the time when we need it. The City sent me a $51k bill for the real estate tax due on 1/4. How am I going to pay that? We are totally left on our own and the goodness of our family, friends and regular clientele — but we can’t expect them to pay for the State and City failures,” continued Kucera. “Also, I don’t have 20k to built an outdoor enclosed dining room which, ultimately is less safe than the tables 6ft apart with screens indoors. The infection rate in Manhattan is 2.07% today, far below the 5%. I am getting discouraged by our leadership and the behavior of some individuals not wanting to wear a simple face cover!”
“This is not good news to hear. Cuomo doesn’t have any plans to help businesses. This is going to be the worst nightmare for all small businesses,” said Kevin Lee from At Nine Thai Restaurant. “Outdoor dining is the new indoor. It’s not different. Outdoor dining in NYC is not even outdoor. Many restaurants have put up walls and made it like indoor dining — it’s the same. This doesn’t help anything by closing indoor. I don’t know what to say. I’m speechless.”
“Indoor dining at 25% is a proven recipe for financial disaster.” said Steve Olsen at West Bank Cafe. “Now that the cold weather has set in, restaurants will be closing because nobody feels comfortable dining inside. 4 out of 5 eating establishments will close down before year’s end.”
Pat Hughes, who has just reopened Hellcat Annie’s Tap Room, said: “Of course Cuomo will. Politicians always use words like probably before they do it.”
The Pocket Bar owner, Suzy Darling, had similar feelings saying: “We are being demonized disproportionately!”
“Even with the cold weather, we have seen quite a few people eating outside, no matter the temperature. We survived on delivery alone for several months at the beginning of the pandemic,” said Charlie Marshall at The Marshal. “It was rough, and we hope we can still count on some guests to come to eat in the outdoor seating, comforted by our hot cocktails, should indoor dining close. This is hard, and it is getting harder for restaurants, but we completely trust the governor’s judgment on this issue. Hopefully, New Yorkers have their jackets ready. We certainly have our outdoor heaters and blankets primed.”
Chef Marshall ended on a high note: “Stay safe, stay warm, stay optimistic!”
UPDATE: We will update this story as we get more reaction from local bars and restaurants. You can also comment below