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A Growing Number of Elected Officials Call For More Restaurant Restrictions

Some ask that restaurants to be limited to takeout and delivery only, while others are calling for indoor dining to be closed

US-HEALTH-VIRUS-RESTAURANTS
A growing number of NYC elected officials are calling for a new restaurant shutdown
Photo by BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP via Getty Images

A growing number of elected officials are calling on the city and state to reconsider indoor dining — and in some cases limit restaurants to takeout and delivery only — in light of the recent uptick in COVID-19 cases in New York, and across the country.

On Monday, state senator Liz Krueger, who represents the east side of Manhattan, issued a statement calling for restaurants to be limited to takeout and delivery if the city’s coronavirus positivity rate crosses three percent on a seven-day rolling average. On Tuesday, the city’s daily positivity rate was at 3.2 percent, according to Mayor Bill de Blasio, but the seven-day rolling average — one of the key metrics the city is using to determine future shutdowns — was 2.74 percent.

Still, elected officials are continuing to sound the alarm in the face of restaurant closures in countries like France and Germany, which had also recently seen an uptick in cases, and major U.S. cities like San Francisco and Chicago, which have suspended indoor dining indefinitely.

State senator Brad Hoylman — who represents parts of Lower and Midtown Manhattan, and raised questions last week about keeping indoor dining and bars open — joined Krueger’s call Tuesday writing in a statement to Eater, “as we’ve learned during the pandemic, it’s necessary to err on the side of caution to protect public health.”

City Council member Keith Powers, who represents Midtown East and the Upper East Side retweeted Krueger’s statement Tuesday, writing “no one wants to go back into a full lockdown, but quick & urgent action to flatten the second wave may be needed if the numbers spike.” Previously Council member Mark Levine, who represents parts of Harlem and the Upper West Side, also questioned the efficacy of closing schools — as the city intends to do if it crosses the three percent seven-day average — while keeping dining rooms open.

In recent days, reporters have continually questioned the mayor on this particular decision, but de Blasio has deferred to the state, arguing that Gov. Andrew Cuomo will ultimately make the decision on shutting down restaurants again. Last week, de Blasio said indoor dining should be reevaluated, but has since declined to make a pronouncement on the topic. A spokesperson for Cuomo referred Eater to the governor’s previous comments that said the state was continuing to monitor data in order to make a decision on restaurants. As of Tuesday, no decision was forthcoming.

The calls for more restrictions on restaurants have come from outside the sphere of elected officials as well. Last week, the New York Times editorial board called on the state to end indoor dining, and health experts have previously said that virus is more likely to spread in restaurants and gyms rather than in schools.

Elected officials concur though that federal aid is vital for restaurants and bars to survive yet another shutdown and acknowledged that the industry has been decimated by the closures. Krueger writes in her statement that “it is is, however, very important that we continue to patronize local restaurants by ordering takeout and delivery, preferably directly from the restaurant rather than through apps or third-party delivery platforms — and tip generously.”

Hoylman renewed calls to pass his emergency rent legislation that looks to provide a lifeline to commercial tenants amid the downturn in business. The city and state have continually urged the federal government to approve another coronavirus relief package, but the effort is currently stalled.

Meanwhile restaurants and bars are continuing to hemorrhage funds even with the presence of outdoor dining and limited indoor dining. Businesses have already noted a downturn in sales following the new curfew that went into effect Friday that requires restaurants to close for on-premises dining at 10 p.m.

In a statement issued shortly after the curfew announcement, the NYC Hospitality Alliance’s executive director Andrew Rigie said “we demand that our elected leaders provide financial support to our city’s restaurants and bars before they permanently shutter and put tens of thousands of New Yorkers out of work.”

Since the start of the pandemic, thousands of restaurants have permanently shuttered due to the downturn in business, the lack of federal aid, and the restrictions placed on establishments due to the virus. Industry experts predict many more closings will likely follow in the coming months with no government aid, and when it will become increasingly untenable to eat outdoors.

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