Johnson appeals to Cuomo & de Blasio: Restart some indoor dining in New York City

New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson called President Trump
City Council Speaker Corey Johnson. (File)

With the rest of the state being allowed to dine indoors and New Jersey allowing 25% capacity as of Friday, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson says now is the time to grant similar authorization to eateries in the five boroughs.

Johnson echoed others in a statement that leaned on the immigrant New Yorker’s dependency on jobs in service industry and that food service and bars were some of the most impacted by COVID-19.

As winter comes, Johnson said, not giving these businesses the ability to seat indoors on a reduced level would be disastrous to the city’s economy.

“It’s time to allow indoor dining in New York City with reduced capacity and clear guidance to ensure social distancing and safety,” Johnson said. “This is crucial for restaurant owners, who have been particularly hard hit by the pandemic and the resulting drop in tourism. Summer is winding down, and they need to begin planning for the colder months. Of course, we will continue to monitor the City’s COVID-19 rates, just as we must for all of our businesses… We know that the restaurant industry employs many New Yorkers, including many immigrants. Its health and well-being are imperative to our City.”

A survey released by the NYC Hospitality Alliance in the beginning of August found that up to 80% of New York City restaurants are unable to pony up for the rent while 52% said they could only pay half. Less than have the rent was able to be paid by 29.8% of respondents, according to the survey.

Andrew Rigie, executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance, commented on Wednesday that the indoor dining in other parts of the state have proven to be safe and that a plan for reopening this sector fully is needed immediately.

“Restaurants across New York City have been financially devastated for six months since the start of the pandemic,” Rigie said. “With New Jersey resuming indoor dining on Friday and restaurants elsewhere across New York state having safely served customers indoors for months, the NYC Hospitality Alliance, restaurant owners from across the five boroughs, industry leaders, members of the State Senate, City Council and now Speaker Johnson have all called for an immediate plan to resume indoor dining.”

Such long-time establishments such as Jeremy’s Ale Houses on Front Street at the South Street Seaport may not make it if indoor dining is not permitted before Oct. 31, proprietor Jeremy Olin told amNewYork Metro recently.

New Jersey’s Monday announcement to allow some indoor service provoked a lukewarm response from Mayor Bill de Blasio who has failed to formulate a plan for business owners in the city and that New Yorkers would simply have to wait and see how things pan out in the Garden State.

Where is Governor Andrew Cuomo in all this? 

The authorization for indoor seating is in the hands of the state, not the city, according to Cuomo, who also took a cautious stance when the news broke that some people west of the Hudson River would get to sit inside for a meal or a cocktail.

Things to watch, they say, will be the infection rate and information from tracing.

The City Council, in turn, has struggled to help out struggling business owners who depend on delivery services to stay afloat in the meantime by passing a series of bills that protect them from predatory practices by apps charging “exorbitant” fees and other hardships.