Governor Andrew Cuomo showed his love for New York City by announcing this morning that indoor dining at 25% can start again from Valentine’s Day.

The Governor said the decision had been made after carefully considering the balance between reopening the economy and protecting public health. The move comes after the NYC infection rate moved from a post-holiday high in early January of 7.1% to 4.9% now.

Cuomo is also planning to start to allow events with up to 150 people from March 15. He joined the two ideas together. “You could make a reservation now for dinner on Valentine’s Day. If you propose on Valentine’s day, then you can have the wedding ceremony on March 15th with up to 150 people,” he quipped. “People will actually come to your wedding because you can tell them that, with the testing, it will be safe.”

Daniele at Etcetera Etcetera reacted to the news saying: “We were expecting next week but will take Valentine’s Day. At least we can organize ourselves and make plans and start taking reservations. I hope we’ll stay open at this point. We need to work! Of course, taking all precautions…”

Daniele Kucera at Etcetera Etcetera making plans for Valentine’s Day.

For many, 25% indoor dining does not make economical sense. “At this point, Scott and I are planning on opening in March,” said Bruce Horowytz, co-owner of 44 & X. “We cannot survive on 25% indoor with the weather too cold for outdoor dining.”

Pat Hughes, who has put both his bars — Scruffy Duffy’s and Hellcat Annie’s Taproom — up for sale, will continue to just have Hellcat’s open. He told us: “25% of nothing, is still nothing. Scruffy Duffy’s shall remain closed until we are back to 100% Capacity.”

Scruffy Duffy’s will remain shuttered until dining is at 100%.

Over at Hudson Yards, Queensyard is ready for Valentine’s Day opening. “Queensyard Restaurant is excited to be reopening on Valentine’s Day with new Brunch and Dinner menus,” said Michelle Hagan from the eatery. “We will also continue to offer fully prepared three-course Sunday Suppers each week, available pickup and delivery — including a special Valentine’s Day meal for two!”

Beef Wellington is on the menu at Queensyard for Valentine’s Day.

Many restaurant owners we spoke to about the prospects of indoor reopening were concerned for their staff and customers’ safety. “I support smart reopening of indoor dining, and with more than two weeks to go before this begins, restaurants have time to evaluate their precautions and take additional ones,” shared Charlie Marshall from The Marshal. “That said, no matter if we are allowed to or not, we will not offer indoor dining at The Marshal unless we feel we can do it safely for our staff and our customers. I hope NYC’s recent downward trend with COVID infections continues. If it does not, we will not offer indoor dining on the 14th, regardless of state permission.”

Preparations are well underway for Valentine’s Day celebrations in Times Square. Times Square Alliance welcomed the news. “We’re happy to see this moving forward and look forward to welcoming people to Times Square on Valentine’s Day for a romantic meal,” said a spokesperson.

“All we have to say is … Love is in the air! In all seriousness, this is welcome news on a day when our thermometers are dipping towards zero — and today and through the weekend, we anticipate facing some of the most challenging days yet, with operations essentially impossible and at a standstill,” said Mandy Oser at Ardesia Wine Bar. “We look forward to getting ready to safely welcome guests back inside.”

Sean Hayden, owner/partner at Jasper’s Taphouse and Kitchen, and four other bars including McCoy’sDalton’s, and Valerie in Midtown was critical of the Governor. He said: “It’s the same old story, using the restaurants as scapegoats all the time and playing with our emotions and livelihoods every chance he gets. There is no data to say you are safer in Nassau County or Westchester than you are in NYC. If anything, the positively rate is lower in the city — and this is from the guy who constantly talks about data. His dramatic press conferences, book writing and receiving an Emmy award is nauseating to say the least. Cuomo has no dignity when asked about nursing homes and blames everyone else when questioned about anything. He’s a genius at brainwashing people with his ego.”

Jacob Cohen from dell’anima at Gotham West Market was more upbeat: “This announcement is very encouraging! We will continue to keep our ears to the regulations included with indoor dining and will make an announcement about next steps as soon as we get more information! We are excited to welcome guests back into the dining room, but as we have since day 1 of the pandemic, we will not compromise on protecting the health of our guests and staff,” he said. “Before creating a plan, we want to take a few days to gather all the necessary information. We can’t wait for a return to a semblance of normalcy, but we will continue to be patient along that path.”

Jim Lahey from Sullivan Street Bakery was philosophical and frustrated. “In this case, assume that the independent restaurant operators are the patient. It means at best a faint pulse, at worst a slow death. We need a comprehensive solution. This is a bandage over an amputation. Thanks but we need a lot more,” he told us. “We are grateful that there is a return to some manner of business, but the damage done cannot be undone and will take years to remedy without a comprehensive solution. Why isn’t there a committee or program to help rescue the industry? How about vouchers for NYC residents to dine out? People are hurting financially and will hesitate to dine out.”

“25% indoor dinning is just not enough to come back to reality,” said Luis Garcia from Arriba Arriba. “Are we going to pay 25% of our utility bills, rent? That is just a way to calm us down — but is still not enough.”

“It’s typically our busiest day of the year so we are happy to try to salvage something,” said Jeff LaPadula from PS Kitchen.

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