Sept. 2, 2020 By Allie Griffin
Mayor Bill de Blasio said he will give restaurants an answer this month as to if and when indoor dining can reopen.
The mayor said restaurant owners and workers deserve a clear answer soon as more and more industry leaders and politicians have been calling on the city to reopen indoor dining for struggling businesses.
“Folks just want a final answer as soon as possible so they can make their plans up or down,” de Blasio said at a press briefing this morning. “I think it’s our responsibility to give them as clear an answer in the month of September as possible of where we’re going.”
Indoor dining has been postponed in New York City indefinitely, while it has opened in all other regions at reduced capacity within the state. Nearby, New Jersey will also resume indoor dining on Friday (at 25 percent capacity) — which Governor Andrew Cuomo acknowledged would send some New Yorkers across a bridge or tunnel to eat out on Monday.
New York City residents have already been crossing the border to Long Island, where indoor dining is allowed at 50 percent capacity, according to a recently filed lawsuit.
In one Queens neighborhood that borders Long Island, a restaurant owner has sued the Cuomo and de Blasio over the lack of indoor dining in the five boroughs.
The owner of Il Bacco Restaurant in Little Neck filed a $2 billion lawsuit against the leaders this week, stating that the shutdown of indoor dining violates the Fifth Amendment in which the government cannot take private property without just compensation.
The Italian restaurant is just one block away from Nassau County, where indoor dining is permitted. The suit argues that the eatery is losing all its customers who cross the border for an indoor meal at Nassau County restaurants.
“There is absolutely NO SCIENCE that will prove that ‘indoor dining’ is safer one city block east from Plaintiff’s restaurant,” the lawsuit alleges.
De Blasio has repeatedly said indoor dining has been linked to COVID-19 upticks in other states and countries, which is why he has been hesitant to reopen it in the city.
He didn’t indicate Wednesday which direction the city was swaying in favor of, but said people need an answer, whether it’s a yes or no.
“If there can be a timeline, if there can be a set of standards for reopening, we need to decide that in the next few weeks and announce it, whether it’s good news or bad news,” de Blasio said.
The state must also weigh in on the issue and Gov. Cuomo has been equally cautious of indoor dining. De Blasio said he is working closely with the state.
“We’ll keep looking at it, I think we owe the industry as clear an answer as humanly possible soon, but it’s always going to be about health and safety first,” de Blasio said. “That’s why we’ve been so careful on this issue.”
Queens elected officials are also pushing for the city to reopen indoor dining. Last week, Council Member Costa Constantinides said the city must come up with a plan and yesterday, State Sen. Joseph Addabbo called Cuomo to reopen indoor dining and bars in the city, as well as the state’s casinos.
“Restaurants and bars in New York City have been able to operate with outdoor seating, but that is not nearly enough to allow them to continue surviving this pandemic,” Addabbo said. “By not allowing indoor dining — especially when just over the border into Nassau County allows it and with the cold weather approaching — it will cripple many businesses.”
The mayor also said opening indoor bars and nightclubs is more risky than indoor restaurants and that the city will treat them as a separate issue to indoor dining.
It is ironic that both NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo claim to be advocates and friends for working and middle class New Yorkers. It is pure class warfare by de Blasio to claim that only wealthy people can afford to dine out. Millions of working and middle class people pre COVID-19 would eat out several days per week. Yet these are the same people Cuomo & deBlasio continue to deny the opportunity to go back to work. As each week goes by, hundreds more restaurants – small, medium and large will permanently close their doors.. After six months, it is becoming more and more difficult to remain in business with no income coming in.
Here is a simple common sense plan to begin the reopening process for indoor restaurant dinning. Follow the New Jersey model and allow any NYC restaurants to reopen on October 1st at 25%. Have them follow common sense health protocols. Wait four weeks. If there is no significant spike in COVID-19 cases, allow them to go to 33% indoor capacity on November 1st. Again, if there is no significant spike in COVID-19 cases, allow them to go to 50% on December 1st. This coincides with the holiday season which should encourage indoor dinning. Pause at 50% until such time as we survive any potential Flu outbreak. Once we have widespread distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine, we can then proceed to permit 67%, 75% and finally 100% capacity over a shorter time period.