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Lawsuit Seeking to Expand Indoor Dining to 50 Percent in NYC Thrown Out

The $500 million class-action lawsuit against Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo was denied on Monday

A close up photograph of a table set for service, with a window looking out on a street Louise Palmberg/Eater

A class action lawsuit seeking to expand indoor dining to 50 percent capacity in New York City has been denied. In a ruling on Monday, Staten Island Supreme Court Justice Thomas Aliotta ruled against a group of more than 100 restaurateurs, who sued New York City in early September for enforcing indoor dining limitations not seen elsewhere in the state. The New York Post first reported on the ruling.

The $500 million suit — filed by a group of restaurateurs from Brooklyn and Staten Island on September 7 — sought to reopen NYC for indoor dining at 50 percent capacity. Restaurateurs alleged that they were being “bullied” and “discriminated against” by Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Cuomo, as restaurants in other parts of the state could reopen their dining rooms at half capacity beginning in late June. At the time, Gov. Cuomo had yet to announce plans to reopen the city for indoor dining at 25 percent capacity.

“The threat of the infection and resurgence of this deadly virus arises when patrons from different households and environments enter restaurants and then depart to move around the densely populated city, potentially coming into contact with 27,000 individuals within every square mile,” the judge wrote in the order dismissing the case.

The suit came on the heels of several other class-action lawsuits against Mayor de Blasio and Gov. Cuomo, the bulk of which sought to extend reopening plans seen elsewhere in New York state to businesses here in New York City. A separate group of more than 300 restaurants waged a class-action lawsuit against the city in early September, seeking over $2 billion in damages due to the city’s ban on indoor dining at that time. A month earlier, a group of 1,500 gym owners filed a $500 million class-action lawsuit against the state to allow them to reopen.

In the roughly eight months since the city shut down its restaurants and bars, Mayor de Blasio and Gov. Cuomo have been hesitant to reopen — and expand — the NYC’s indoor dining program, pointing to the city’s high population density and potential for spread. Indoor dining was slated to return at 50 percent capacity on November 1 in NYC, but those plans appear to be on hold, likely due to a surge in coronavirus cases in New York, in New Jersey, and nationwide in recent weeks.

On Monday, Mayor de Blasio said that the city’s indoor dining program should be “reevaluated” due to the COVID-19 uptick. Gov. Cuomo has has yet to offer substantive comment on when indoor dining will return to the city at 50 percent capacity, but his office said it is continuing to monitor data in New York and neighboring states.