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Mayor Says Indoor Dining Will Depend on How School Reopening Goes

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Bill de Blasio confirmed what some restaurant owners have suspected for some time now

Mayor Bill de Blasio sitting and eating food with other people under a tent
NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio says the return to indoor dining will depend on how the schools reopening goes
Gary He/Eater

Mayor Bill de Blasio confirmed Thursday what some NYC restaurant owners have suspected all along: A return to indoor dining is contingent on how the city’s schools perform when they reopen on September 10.

When a reporter pointed out to the mayor again Thursday that a return to indoor dining had been postponed indefinitely, de Blasio was more measured in his response than earlier in the week when he indicated that indoor dining might not return until next year.

“As more and more people come back to work, as schools begin, you know, we’ll get to see a lot about what our long-term health picture looks like, and that’s going to help inform our decisions going forward,” said de Blasio referring to the administration’s wait and watch approach on making a decision on indoor dining.

While the rest of the state has allowed indoor dining to proceed at half capacity for the last two months, New York City restauranteurs have been waiting indefinitely, despite the fact that the city has largely brought the spread of the COVID-19 largely under control. Still, New York leaders like de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo have expressed concern due to the city’s density and population.

Regardless, the indecision on indoor dining has restaurateurs frustrated and concerned about the rest of the year, particularly as the winter months approach, with the possibility that outdoor dining will become untenable for most. De Blasio indicated again Thursday outdoor dining could be extended beyond the current October 31 deadline.

“There’s definitely openness on our part to going longer if we think it will contribute something,” he said, adding that the decision was contingent on talks with the restaurant industry, and the condition that administration and restaurants could set some ground rules on how to move forward.

Restaurant and bar owners — already reeling from the financial downturn caused by the virus which has forced more than a thousand permanent closures — will likely have to spend thousands of dollars on installing outdoor heaters if outdoor eating continues into the winter. Still, de Blasio hasn’t ruled out indoor dining completely.

“We’re continuing to look at the indoor question,” de Blasio said Thursday. “It’s a very challenging question because of what we’ve seen around the world, but we’re continuing to assess and what matters most is our health situation.”