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NYC Hospitality Alliance laments ‘never-ending restrictions’ on indoor dining

Philippe Massoud, the owner of Ilili Restaurant at 236 Fifth Ave. told amNewYork in September that the eatery will not survive if they cannot have indoor dining when the cooler weather hits. Many restaurants feel the same way. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

After Governor Andrew Cuomo teased on Monday that COVID-19 restrictions would be lifted, patrons and proprietors alike got their hopes up upon clarification.

Cuomo, in response to reporters, said that his lifting of restrictions would apply to micro-cluster zones under yellow and orange designations and not indoor dining which he claimed was not in the cards despite improving infection rates throughout the state.

“Governor Cuomo’s never-ending restrictions keeping indoor dining closed at New York City restaurants, while keeping it open around the rest of the state where infection and hospitalization rates are higher than in New York City, is discriminatory and is destroying the livelihoods of small business owners and workers,” Andrew Rigie, executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance, said. “Multiple legal actions have been filed to reopen indoor dining in New York City and we are exploring all additional legal options on behalf of the city’s restaurant industry to ensure equitable treatment and application of the Governor’s Executive Orders.”

The governor, on Monday, announced a 5.47% infection rate statewide, a drop from what he regarded as the holiday spike.

“The indoor dining in New York City is a New York City-specific condition. And we’re not, at this point, contemplating any changes,” Cuomo said.

Even on the city front, Mayor Bill de Blasio could hardly provide a response to Errol Louis later that evening apart from reliance on the vaccine rollout for a return to eateries and bars. The numbers will dictate when indoor dining will return, according to de Blasio, which his administration is watching daily.

“This all has to be about the data and the science. Right now, there’s real concern about these new variants that we’re dealing with. Our health care leadership’s watching that real carefully, but the biggest x-factor is the vaccine. That could be the game changer obviously, but we don’t have the supply. And I think it’s hard to project that things are going to be okay in the short term until we get a reliable supply of vaccine,” de Blasio said. “We need a constant and reliable supply of the vaccine from the federal government, from the manufacturers.”  

The pressure on the city and state to lift restrictions on businesses has not been on the NYC Hospitality Alliance alone. 

On Saturday, the State Restaurant Association asked the Cuomo administration to follow the lead of others in the northeast, such as Massachusetts, who lifted their indoor dining with increased capacity limits. The organization also thought it wise for the state to end the outdoor dining curfew of 10 p.m. and push it to midnight.

“We all know about the dire financial crisis facing the restaurant industry. And we all agree that we need to reopen the economy or there will be nothing left to reopen. We’re urging the state to take some small steps in that direction. Any help will go a long way toward the long-term survival of so many of our favorite restaurants,” said Melissa Fleischut, president of  NYSRA, said.

Additionally, the NYSRA said many businesses are ending service at 8 p.m. instead of 10 p.m. in order to comply seamlessly with the curfew.

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