New York’s bar and restaurant community must close to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced late Sunday night — constituting the largest disruption the hospitality industry has faced since major events like the September 11 terrorist attacks, the 2008 financial crisis, and Hurricane Sandy.
By Monday morning, Governor Andrew Cuomo moved up the timeline on the closures. Starting at 8 p.m. Monday night, restaurants and bars across New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut need to close to anything but take-out and delivery business. Movie theaters, gyms, and casinos must also close, but grocery stores can stay open.
Notably, businesses with liquor licenses will be allowed to sell alcohol for customers to consume off-premises, Cuomo said at a press conference. He encouraged people to buy from their favorite restaurants, bars, and distilleries to drink at home.
The State Liquor Authority will have more details on how it will work at 5 p.m. on Monday, and the rule would only apply during the restaurant and bar closure mandate. Eater has reached out to the SLA for further details.
“We hope that goes a long way toward alleviating any economic hardship,” Cuomo says.
A timeline for reopening is to-be-determined, according to a mayoral spokesperson. NYPD, FDNY, the Department of Buildings, and the sheriff’s office will be involved in enforcement. New guidance from the Department of Healthy on Sunday said that everyone — healthy or symptomatic — should be acting as if they have been exposed to the virus and stay at home except for essential activities, such as grocery shopping or medical care.
“The virus can spread rapidly through the close interactions New Yorkers have in restaurants, bars and places where we sit close together. We have to break that cycle,” de Blasio said a statement, which originally planned a Tuesday closure.
The decision comes in the wake of similar closures in France, Italy, and elsewhere throughout the U.S. — plus a growing cacophony of voices saying that leaders should go for a full shutdown instead of maintaining half-capacity. Pressure for escalated mandates from the government grew on Sunday, after many locals reported seeing people crowd bars and restaurants across the city in spite of the half-capacity mandate.
Earlier in the weekend, Governor Andrew Cuomo “aggressively” recommended that businesses, including bars and restaurants, voluntarily close, and many of New York’s high profile restaurant groups, including Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group, David Chang’s Momofuku empire, Michael Stillman’s Quality Branded, and others have already voluntarily and fully shuttered.
The shutdown is an unprecedented decision for a city that depends on its restaurant community for daily nourishment, business meetings, social affairs, gastronomic tourism, and jobs. In a memo to members, restaurant trade group the NYC Hospitality Alliance noted that restaurants would need government support — calling for measures such as a 10 percent cap on fees that delivery platforms charge.
The five boroughs employ over 320,000 food and beverage workers, many of whom are hourly workers who live paycheck to paycheck. Most of those individuals will be at least temporarily unemployed until the shutdown is lifted.
CNN reports that the disease known as COVID-19 has over 152,000 confirmed cases worldwide — 3,000 in the U.S. — and killed nearly 6,000. As of Monday morning, NYC had more than 320 confirmed cases.
With additional reporting by Serena Dai
This post has been updated with an announcement from Governor Andrew Cuomo.