After a month-long increase in COVID-19 cases in New York City, Gov. Andrew Cuomo decided to shut down restaurants indefinitely starting Monday, which dealt a blow to the hospitality industry from New York as the winter months approach. Cuomo said the shutdown came last week due to an increase in hospitalizations, and on Friday he confirmed that hospitalizations continued to climb last week, leading to the shutdown.
Restaurant owners have been preparing for the decision for some time now with cases steadily increasing in the city and across the country. Until now, Cuomo had closed various parts of the city on the basis of business groups with restaurants facing restrictions in Washington Heights, Mott Haven and large parts of Queens and the Bronx. The latest, however, is the first city-wide shutdown to go into effect since March, when the first COVID-19 restrictions were introduced. Last month, Cuomo had limited restaurants in town to take out and deliveries after 10 p.m. Restaurants can still continue to eat al fresco, take out and deliver.
Cuomo also said on Friday the moratorium on business evictions would be extended, but did not specify until when, but urged the federal government to approve federal aid to help restaurants and bars stay afloat. Eater asked for more details on the moratorium.
Still, it’s been just over two months since indoor restaurants reopened in New York City at 25% capacity. While other parts of the state were able to reopen at half capacity, NYC was capped at 25% and did not see a half increase in capacity in November – as Cuomo initially had. indicated – due to the increased spread of the virus.
In a separate press conference Friday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said he would support Cuomo’s decision to implement new restrictions “100%”.
“I feel a tremendous amount of empathy for restaurateurs,” said de Blasio. “We want them to survive, we need them to survive. […] But at the same time, these numbers don’t lie. The city’s three indicators by which it monitors the spread of COVID-19, including hospitalization rates and positive test counts, all crossed their safe thresholds for the first time on December 11. “It’s a second wave,” de Blasio said.
Many restaurateurs have repeatedly warned that without an increase in indoor dining, many more closures could be underway in the coming months. The New York Restaurant Association and the New York City Hospitality Alliance have previously denounced the latest closure, saying restaurants in the city have been unfairly targeted while restaurants elsewhere in the state are still allowed to eat indoors. .
While restaurants are now allowed to have propane and electric heaters outside, many fear that this may not be enough to combat the cold for patrons eating outside, and many struggle to install. propane heaters due to the strict guidelines set by the city fire department.
A series of closed outdoor catering structures that have propped up in response to the colder weather have also worried health experts that they could potentially lead to the spread of the virus. However, as per city guidelines, fully enclosed outdoor spaces must meet the same indoor dining restrictions, so those spaces will likely become unusable now without change from conservators.
Even with the combination of indoor and outdoor dining, restaurants continued to struggle to pay fixed costs like rent. A recent survey by the NYC Hospitality Alliance found that nearly 90% of restaurants were unable to pay full rent as of October. Congress is now set to pass a new stimulus bill related to COVID-19, but it is not yet clear how this will help restaurants.
Since the start of the pandemic, thousands of restaurants have closed permanently due to the slowdown in activity. In recent weeks, restaurants have faced a host of new restrictions nationwide due to an increase in cases. In California, San Francisco and Los Angeles have closed indoor and outdoor restaurants due to the coronavirus spike.
This is a developing story and Eater will continue to update this post