It took 6 months, a $2 billion lawsuit, the risk of losing nearly three-quarters of the city’s restaurants and public shaming from the president for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to finally OK indoor dining in the city — and he’s still insisting on absurd and unfair restrictions.
It’s not just that it has to wait ’til the end of the month. Beyond the standard mask and social-distancing rules, the gov orders all eateries to close by midnight — just the latest in his long string of “don’t have too much fun” edicts.
Plus, unlike casinos, they must take customers’ temperatures on entry and get (and keep) contact info to allow for the tracing of any outbreaks.
It may make sense to start off by limiting seating to a quarter of pre-COVID capacity — but Cuomo should offer clear guidelines on the conditions (e.g., no significant uptick in new cases) for quickly moving the bar up to 50 percent. If it proves safe, the limits need to loosen, fast: The hospitality industry is drowning after six months on the sidelines.
Restaurants in most of New York, including counties next to the city, have been open at 50 percent capacity since June. Why would eateries here be higher-risk than those in Buffalo, Rochester or Albany?
Bowling alleys opened a few weeks ago at half capacity. City gyms are open at 33 percent capacity and malls at 50 percent; each museum gets to set its own regulations. But Cuomo — with Mayor de Blasio cheering him on — continues to inexplicably single out restaurants as a special source of danger.
The extra restrictions make even less sense next to public-transportation guidelines, which basically stop at the mask requirement.
Strangers can huddle into a packed subway train, but it’s too dangerous to eat a meal in the same room as more than 10 other people? When the city’s overall infection rate hasn’t surpassed 1 percent in a month? Just doesn’t compute.
Cuomo has claimed that New York City needs more careful monitoring because its spread rate is higher and people tend to ignore the social-distancing guidelines. But the stats suggest otherwise: The city’s infection rate has consistently mirrored that of the rest of the state for months now.
Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, who joined a host of restaurant owners in suing Cuomo over his failure to reopen the city in a timely manner, says the suit will proceed until the gov allows 50 percent restaurant capacity. Good.
It’s past time to give this industry some hope of survival — at the very least, the same hope it has in the rest of New York.
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