‘We’ll all be drinking at Applebee’s’: Cuomo, de Blasio urge patience on indoor dining as Jersey gives green light

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(Photo by Todd Maisel)

Finally, New Jersey has something New York City does not: indoor dining.

The Garden State announced Monday that they would allow patrons of restaurants and bars to consume indoors at 25% capacity, prompting questions of Governor Andrew Cuomo about similar action for establishments on the eastern banks of the Hudson River.

Cuomo, recently a firm opponent of indoor dining until the health crisis passes entirely said Monday that his administration would be watching New Jersey with interest in the possibility of maximizing commerce in New York at the earliest convenience without a backslide into the more grim days of April and May when infection rates and deaths from COVID-19 were at their worst.

On Sunday, only one New Yorker had died from COVID-19, another benchmark for New York’s success at beating back the virus.

“I’m aware that the restaurants in New York City are very unhappy… I understand the economic consequences, I understand their argument will be exacerbated when they say New Jersey can go to 25% and it is something that we are watching and considering. I want as much economic activity as quickly as possible,” Cuomo said. “By law it is a state decision, it’s not up Queens, the Bronx, Westchester, Nassau, it’s a state decision; it’s not up to New York City.”

According to Cuomo, Manhattan patrons could become the next iteration of a bridge-and-tunnel crowd, crossing the river for a dining experience just minutes away in some cases. Before this, city dwellers could go just about anywhere in the state where indoor dining has been authorized due to low infection rates which has left many scratching their heads considering the comparatively low metrics in the five boroughs.

But the decision for allowing other businesses to open with the exclusion of restaurants is less a matter of math and more a matter of the heightened risk that bars in particular pose on a general basis, according to state health commissioner Howard Zucker.

“There is no calibration for restaurants that’s different from malls, that’s different from casinos, it’s just the locality. The viral transmission rate versus the rest of increasing activity,” Cuomo added. ” Obviously it’s worse in New York City because you have a higher concentration of people.”

But Cuomo’s restraint in allowing for indoor dining in the city is also a reflection of what has been viewed as a lack of compliance from businesses who allow congregations of maskless drinkers to crowd the streets, leading to the creation of a special task force and sweeps by the State Liquor Authority suspending licenses.

In response to a question from amNewYork Metro reporter Todd Maisel, Mayor Bill de Blasio was skeptical that decimated business opportunities for bar owners would leave New Yorkers no other options than chain establishments such as Applebee’s.

“I don’t think in the end, we’re only going to be going to Applebee’s. I really don’t. I believe it’s been really, really tough on folks who own restaurants, who put their life into those restaurants. It has been really tough on the people who work for them and are trying to get their livelihoods back. We’re working every day. Our Health team is looking at this issue all the time, and we’re going to be working closely with the State on this as well,” de Blasio said. “Is there a way where we can do something safely with indoor dining? So far we have not had that moment, honestly.”

Hizzoner is still holding out hope for a COVID-19 vaccine as early as the spring.

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