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New York’s Return to Indoor Dining Includes Half-Capacity Seating, Cuomo Says

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo finally unveiled details on what the third phase of reopening will look like for the state’s restaurants and bars

The interior of a fine dining restaurant with white linen and several round tables and chairs. Renderings of glass screens can be seen in the distance
A rendering of proposed glass screens at the Michelin-starred French restaurant Daniel
Tihany Design

Gov. Andrew Cuomo finally unveiled plans for a return to dining-in at the state’s restaurants and bars after weeks of calls from restaurant owners for some type of guidance. While the guidelines echo all the rules set out for outdoor dining last week, there are a couple of new additions:

  • Restaurants can reopen with half capacity indoors, but this does not include the number of tables set up outdoors. The occupancy limit excludes employees.
  • Tables must be placed at least six feet apart from each other. For tables that can’t be placed six feet apart, the guidelines call for restaurants to install barriers that are at least five-feet tall.

A return to dining in has been slotted in the third phase of the state’s reopening plan, which for many regions aside from New York City, is set to take place at the end of this month. For NYC, that return is likely expected to take place sometime in mid-July. Cuomo did not make a formal announcement for this third phase of reopening, but details of the plan are available on Cuomo’s website dedicated to all the reopening guidelines. Eater has reached out to Cuomo’s office for more details.

While the half capacity will still prove to be a major hurdle for NYC restaurateurs with tiny spaces, it should come as somewhat of a relief for many owners who were initially expecting a return with a 30 percent occupancy for diners. Still, many owners say that even half capacity won’t be enough for restaurants that are already reeling from three months of only doing takeout and delivery.

Cuomo’s guidelines don’t provide details on when restaurants might be able to accommodate more people indoors, and does not outline measures the state might undertake if establishments fail to meet the mandatory requirements outlined in the plan. Most of the guidelines for this third phase of reopening echo what was already outlined. Rules limiting the party size to 10 people per group, the requirement to wear face coverings except for when seated, and the use of disposable containers for condiments will be required indoors as well.