One of New York City’s greatest attractions has been given the green light to start reopening amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
During a COVID-19 press briefing in Manhattan on Wednesday, Sept. 9, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that restaurants in New York City will be permitted to resume indoor dining, albeit at 25 percent capacity, beginning on Wednesday, Sept. 30.
Cuomo said that he has set a deadline of Thursday, Nov. 1 to determine whether restaurants will be able to reopen up to 50 percent capacity.
When restaurants reopen, they will be under strict guidance from the state that includes:
- Temperature checks at the door for all customers;
- One member of each party will be required to provide contact information for tracing, if needed;
- There will be no bar service - bars will only be used as service bars, where drinks can be made and served tableside;
- Masks must be worn at all times when not seated at a table, and tables must be six feet apart;
- Restaurants will close no later than midnight;
- There will be “strict adherence” to state-issued guidelines;
- Restaurants should operate with enhanced air filtration, ventilation, and purification standards;
- Limiting air recirculation and allowing for outside air ventilation.
Cuomo cited a recent rise in compliance from bars and restaurants following COVID-19 as a key contributing factor to why restaurants have been given the go-ahead.
“We understand the economic benefits restaurants provide and the pressure they’ve been under,” he said. “A restaurant is not just the restaurant owner. It’s the restaurant’s kitchen staff, the wait staff, there’s a whole industry around restaurants - but they also pose a possible risk.
“We’ve seen concentrations of people inside and we know that compliance had been lacking, so there was a reason for caution,” Cuomo added.
Cuomo said that over the past month, the State Liquor Authority and New York State Police Taskforce has visited more than 36,000 establishments, and have found a compliance rate of 99.2 percent.
When restaurants reopen, the state’s task force will be expanded to ensure it can check the approximately 10,000 New York City restaurants, while the city will supplement them with an additional 400 code enforcement inspectors.
Yesterday, the task force observed 969 bars and restaurants and issued five violations.
Cuomo said that once bars and restaurants saw the state's taskforce enforcing compliance more stringently, the establishments began falling into place and following the state's guidance.
"If you lose your liquor license, that's very serious business, and bad actors that are violating the rules now know that they could very well lose their license ... and compliance has gone up," he said. "But rules are only as good as their compliance, and the compliance is only as good as the enforcement, which had been lax.
"The state put together the task force, and now we're seeing real compliance," he continued. "They heard about the number of enforcement actions, knew the chance was very high someone may check and what happens then is that the compliance goes up."
The governor also said that he expects the people of New York to police themselves, setting up a text and calling hotline to allow patrons to anonymously report any violations.
Restaurants will have to post those numbers - call (833) 208-4160 or text (855) 904-5036 - as well as what their 25 percent indoor capacity is before reopening.
“New Yorkers themselves will help with the compliance. New Yorkers will help keep New Yorkers safe. The New York community is the best compliance unit,” Cuomo said. “New Yorkers have shown all throughout this that they have forged a community. One way we’ll be safe is if we work to protect each other.
“I’m asking New Yorkers to be a part of the solution,” he added. “I believe in New Yorkers, and New Yorkers’ ability to do the right thing. It’s not blind faith. It’s a result of the experience we’ve had going through COVID.”
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