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Mayor Casually Hints That Indoor Dining May Not Return Until 2021

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The remarks come as restaurateurs plead with the city for a concrete indoor dining plan

A close-up shot of NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio wearing a blue disposable face mask
NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio
Photo by Bryan Thomas/Getty Images
Erika Adams is the editor of Eater Boston.

In a press conference on Monday, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio suggested that the city might have to wait awhile — potentially into next year — before indoor dining will be allowed to resume.

In response to a reporter’s question about how the city was planning to “stem the tide” of people moving out of the area due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis, de Blasio reiterated confidence in the recovery of the local economy in the wake of the pandemic. He said that the city’s beloved attractions — including Broadway theaters and indoor dining at restaurants — will be back “next year.”

“Of course we’ll be back,” de Blasio said at the press conference. “If folks miss the theater, if they miss indoor dining, those things will be back. They’ll be back next year at some point. I think that is overwhelmingly the case.”

The casual indoor dining comments follow days of pressure on the topic, as the summer weeks slip by and outdoor dining is slated to end in two months. Last week, NYC restaurateurs from across the city gathered to renew calls for a concrete plan addressing the future of indoor dining in the city during the pandemic. De Blasio said at the time that “there is no timeline” for when indoor dining may be allowed again in the city, and he was continuing to remain cautious after seeing that cases have spiked in other areas following a return to indoor dining.

Later in the week, a group of 100 restaurateurs from Brooklyn and Staten Island announced plans to sue NYC in an attempt to force the city to reverse its current position. Indoor seating at a restricted capacity — which has been allowed to proceed in all other parts of the state — was indefinitely postponed in NYC in early July. On Friday, de Blasio said on WNYC’s “The Brian Lehrer Show” that he currently has “no plan” for allowing indoor dining to return.

A spokesperson for the mayor’s office clarified after the press conference that the mayor’s comments were meant to be interpreted only as general remarks about the city’s culture. “I think that might be parsing his language a bit too finely — he was making a broad point about all the things that make NYC culture what it is, not making a policy announcement about one particular industry,” the spokesperson said in an email.

“When we have a long-term announcement to make about the future of indoor dining, we’ll be clear and transparent about it,” the spokesperson added. “No news to share on this today.”