Back at the end of August 2020, we took a survey of W42ST readers and their dining habits, focusing on finding out their attitude to indoor dining. At that time, 25% capacity dining was over a month away (it started in New York City on September 30).

We asked the same questions again at the end of October — to see if there had been a significant change in attitudes and how many readers had dined indoors in the past month.

Yesterday, we took the survey once more, as indoor dining came back to Hell’s Kitchen at 25% capacity — and there were some significant changes.

More people are ready to dine indoors, but for the first time, half of our readers say “Hell NO!” to the prospect of indoor dining. Those who were unsure have dropped significantly.

It’s surprising with such a cold winter that so many have moved to a firm “no” on indoor dining, when sitting outdoors in a heavy coat or staying at home are the other options.

Crispin’s on 10th Avenue offering Indoor dining again. Photo: Crispin’s.

The vaccine is likely to be a significant factor in the change. Our last survey was at the end of October, pre-election and pre-vaccine announcements.

From the graphs below, it’s clear why so many restaurants are struggling for survival. Remember, this group represents the locals — not tourists or midtown business folk. Pre-COVID, 64% dined out a few times a week, before the last indoor ban 16.5% were venturing indoors, but recently, as temperatures have dropped, only 7% were dining out with that sort of regularity.

As always, the data gives a picture, but it’s not the whole story. When we do these surveys, we create a “word cloud” (see the PacMan at the top of this piece). The word that springs out is “SAFE” and that reflects the thoughts of our readers. This time, “vaccinated” has become a significantly used word too.

Here are some of the thoughts of the readers who responded to our survey.

“It’s important for people to go through the winter without losing their minds at home. Even once a week dining out will help,” said Bini.

Joe said: “Still questionable. I think I would still be nervous if the place is too small or has more than a couple of other people dining.”

“Unfortunately, very unsafe,” shared one reader. “I wish it wasn’t true but I’ll be supporting local restaurants via takeout!”

Most restaurants are offering a hybrid of indoor and outdoor dining now. Photo: EAK Ramen.

Another reader said: “unsafe at the current COVID levels we’re at in NYC. We’re still in the ‘extremely high risk’ level according to NYTimes, rivaling how bad it was last spring.”

Kevin thought it was “essential for the survival of these businesses.”

“With only 25 % capacity, it probably won’t be a big change to the current situation,” said Lora. “But it would be nice to eat out without freezing your toes all the time!”

One reader told us: “Not for me until vaccinations are in place and available to the last round of eligibility. I’m happy to hang out indoors with people masked up, but not interested in being in confined spaces with strangers unmasked.”

“Perfectly safe, and New York City should be treated the same as the rest of New York State,” said Adrianne.

And Miki echoed an issue faced by many of our readers: “Not for me right now. Not only because of COVID but unfortunately financially we can’t afford to.”

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