Just a day after Governor Andrew Cuomo described New York City's indoor dining as "ruthless," he announced on Wednesday that the service would return to the city at the end of the month.
As of September 30, restaurants will be able to serve guests at 25% of their usual capacity in-house, the governor said. The reopening plan includes a number of new security measures and restrictions. Diners must wear face-covering when not seated; At least one member from each party must provide contact tracing information. Temperature tests are carried out on the door; Seating in the bar is not permitted. and restaurants close at midnight. Businesses also need to come up with improved air filtration systems, a requirement that is similar to one of the regulations for reopening gyms.
New York state's positivity rate – or the percentage of tests that come back positive for the virus – has remained below 1% for 33 days since Tuesday. In New York City, that rate was 0.7%, compared to a high of more than 60% at the height of the crisis in March and April when the city was the nation's viral epicenter.
Do not miss: I went to the Met and here is what I saw
The governor had previously cited concerns about the city's failure to come up with an enforcement plan for indoor restaurants, suggesting at one point that several thousand police officers be deployed to ensure good restaurant behavior. It seems like a mix of improving compliance with outdoor eating rules and the promise of additional city enforcement that paved the way for Wednesday's decision.
"Because compliance is better, we can now take the next step," said Cuomo.
The city will provide 400 law enforcement personnel to monitor indoor eating, in addition to the State Liquor Authority's compliance officers, Cuomo said. It was not immediately clear which city authorities would occupy this enhanced enforcement.
The governor also urged New Yorkers to help themselves enforce the 10,000 restaurants that are expected to require inspection. Restaurants are required to publicly disclose capacity limits and phone numbers for users to report violations: 833-208-4160 or text "INFRINGEMENT" to 855-904-5036.
"I trust that if they have the right information they are doing the right thing," he said, warning that the state can shut down indoor dining at any time if the infection rate rises in New York City.
If the infection rate hasn't increased by Nov. 1, indoor dining can potentially expand to 50% capacity, Cuomo said.
See also: Welcome to New York! Don't you dare go outside!
The pressure to reopen came from the catering industry itself; In August, a group of more than 300 restaurants filed a class action lawsuit against the state over ongoing closure mandates, seeking more than $ 2 billion in damages.
James Mermigis, the attorney representing the restaurants in the suit, did not immediately respond to the request for comment.
"New York's restaurant industry has been financially devastated by the Covid-19 pandemic, and a safe return to indoor dining is critical to saving these important small businesses and jobs," said Andrew Rigie, executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance, in an emailed statement on MarketWatch. "We thank Governor Cuomo for announcing a return to indoor dining with a blueprint for future expansion. Restaurants are critical to New York's economic and social fabric, and indoor dining is a key component of the industry's recovery."
Continue reading: Seven coronavirus vaccine candidates are being tested in the US – here they are