Earlier restart to NYC indoor dining ahead of Valentine’s Day, Cuomo announces

Restaurants resume indoor dining at limited capacity due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Manhattan
A waiter fills a glass in the Mediterranean seafood restaurant Estiatorio Milos at the Hudson Yards as restaurants resumed indoor dining at 25 percent capacity due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., September 30, 2020. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Monday that his administration would help eateries in New York City prepare for Valentine’s Day by allowing indoor dining at 25% capacity a couple of days prior.

With infection rates on a continuous downward trend from the holidays, Cuomo said indoor service could come back on Friday, Feb. 12 after a widely unpopular hiatus that has been in place since early December in preparation for a spike.

“They have made the point that they’d like to open a couple of days earlier so they can be ready for Valentine’s Day. Get the staff oriented get supplies into the restaurant. And that’s a reasonable request. So we’ll start indoor dining on Friday at 25%,” Cuomo said. “It should be a big restaurant day.”

“We commend Governor Cuomo for permitting indoor dining to resume in New York City on Friday, instead of Sunday the originally scheduled date,” Andrew Rigie, executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance, said. “This will allow restaurants to generate much needed revenue from the Valentine’s Day weekend business, much of which they would have lost because the holiday falls on a Sunday this year. The advanced opening and better health metrics are welcome news to the city’s decimated restaurant industry and to lovers alike.”

The governor spoke about taking an aggressive attitude toward the reopening of the economy through a return of the arts industry such as Broadway theater, which generates billions for the New York City economy, partly through tourism.

Cuomo is planning a new program called New York Pops Up for live entertainment with social distancing and avoiding large gatherings. Many of the 300 events will be spontaneous, according to the governor, and will start at the Javits Center on Feb. 20. It will last up to 100 days.

It’s the first initiative in the nation. That will accelerate the restoration of the arts and performances and creative energy, you have an entire sector of the economy that has been out of work,” Cuomo said. “We talk about the restaurant workers and, and people who’ve been hurt at work. When you shut down Broadway, when you shut down movie theaters, you stop an entire industry. Everybody understands why, but we have to now nurture that industry to bring it back. And again, it is vital for our cities to survive.”

The program will reach a “crescendo,” according to Cuomo, over the summer at Pier 55 with a special event.

Whether or not long-suffering Broadway Theaters will be reopened, Cuomo said that all comes down to a testing program similar to the plan put in place for Buffalo Bills games where 7,000 people were tested prior to a game. Sports fans were expected to provide proof they had tested negative within 72 hours of the event.

“Why can’t you do it with Broadway?” Cuomo added. “If the 150 people were tested, and they were all negative. Yes, I would do that and the social distancing and the air ventilation system is proper. Yes, I would do that. If it was reviewed by the State Department of Health and they said there was an intelligent protocol to it, I would do it.”

Cuomo anticipates the FDA approval of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine which can inoculate an individual in a single dose, as opposed to the booster needed for the Moderna and Pfizer injection. Meanwhile, newer strains from the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil remain a concern for his administration.