New York-based restaurant groups warned of severe consequences to local businesses on Wednesday after Gov. Andrew Cuomo enacted a new curfew for local bars and eateries amid a surge in COVID-19 cases.
Cuomo ordered bars, restaurants and any other establishments with state liquor licenses to end indoor and outdoor dining by 10 p.m. beginning on Friday. The governor said the restrictions were necessary after contract tracing data showed “establishments where alcohol is served, gyms, and indoor gatherings at private homes” were contributing to the spread of coronavirus.
New York State Restaurant Association CEO and President Melissa Fleischut said the latest restrictions were a “huge blow to the restaurant industry that is desperately trying to stay afloat” during a pandemic that has already resulted in widespread closures and layoffs.
“Our members have put in place procedures and protocols to mitigate the spread, and we’ll continue to do so to ensure the safety of our employees and patrons,” Fleischut said. “We understand the logic behind micro-cluster restrictions, but at this time we have concerns about blanket statewide restrictions like this.”
New York City restaurants were permitted to resume indoor dining at 25 percent capacity on Sept. 30 after a months-long shutdown that did significant damage to local businesses. In an audit of the hospitality sector released on Oct. 1, New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli cited estimates that said up to half of all NYC bars and restaurants could shut down over the next six months.
While New York restaurants have pushed back hard against the state’s dining restrictions, the governor’s office has maintained that strict rules are necessary to protect public health. Prior to the curfew, bars and restaurants were permitted to host indoor dining until 12 p.m. and outdoor dining until 11 p.m.
“These new restrictions should be publicly justified with contact tracing data because they will make it even more difficult for these small businesses to survive,” said Andrew Rigie, executive director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance. “We demand that our elected leaders provide financial support to our city’s restaurants and bars before they permanently shutter and put tens of thousands of New Yorkers out of work.”
COVID-19 hospitalizations and test positivity rates in New York reached their highest level since June this week. Health officials have warned that falling temperature this fall and winter could contribute to a “second wave” of the novel coronavirus.
The governor’s office said restaurants will still be allowed to provide curbside, food-only service and make deliveries after 10 p.m. The curfew also applies to gyms.
In addition, Cuomo said private indoor gatherings would be limited to no more than 10 people. He warned that state officials could take further steps, such as temporarily banning indoor dining altogether, if cases continue to rise.
“If these measures aren’t sufficient to reduce the spread — we’ll turn the valve more,” Cuomo said.