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‘We’re Dealing With a Virus We Still Know Very Little About:’ How NYC Diners Feel About Eating Indoors

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While some are enthusiastic about indoor dining’s return next week, many remain deeply skeptical about the safety of eating inside again

Deep Water No. 1 by Ran Ortner, a painting of a tempestuous and sunlit Pacific Ocean, overlooks the leather-banquette clad dining rom at Le Bernardin
NYC diners sound off on the return of indoor dining next week
Alex Staniloff/Eater NY

New York City’s return to indoor dining is just a week away, and much like the divide among restaurateurs, the city’s diners too have a mixed response to the restart on September 30. While some diners are excited about getting to eat indoors again, many more remain deeply skeptical about the return, citing safety concerns for themselves and restaurant staffers, in light of the pandemic.

Here’s a look at the range of reactions Eater New York readers have to the reopening of the city’s dining rooms. Let us know where you stand on indoor dining in the poll below.

Some can’t wait to get back

I am completely, totally and 100 percent enthusiastic about returning to indoor dining. 25 percent is very reasonable and cautious; I have no fear or hesitation of booking my old haunts on OpenTable next week and going forward. Bring it on!! — Susan W.

NYC dining space is much tighter, but at 25 percent capacity I would eat anywhere (even at a place with tight bistro seating). We have waited long enough, and restaurants are suffering. We can’t be reckless, but NYC has gotten to a much better place, and we should take small steps like this. — Peter K.

I would certainly eat indoors in NYC – even if it was limited to 75 percent occupancy. The NYS death rate has dropped to a minuscule level, and this pandemic in NYC is now under control. — Jerry W.

Others are emboldened by their experiences elsewhere in the state

I have eaten indoors in other parts of the state and would feel comfortable doing so in NYC provided that certain precautions are observed such as spaced tables, proper cleaning procedures, staff wearing masks and gloves, etc. We need to keep the hospitality industry alive and further shut down will only further cripple it. — Robert S.

I am fortunate enough to be a life long NY’er, which means I have family on Long Island, in Westchester, Brooklyn, Queens etc. I have dined indoors safely, with that said, I choose reputable restaurants run by operators I trust. Do the same and the industry will survive with the best of us rising to the occasion. Allow us the opportunity to show the nation we can beat this thing while leading by example! — Chris J.

Some are taking a wait-and-see approach

I think we as New Yorkers are so eager to support the places we love and care about in our city. And when the temperatures make outdoor dining impossible I think it will be easier to take the risk (safely) and venture indoors. Waiting with baited breath to see how indoor dining goes at the end of the month. — Lauren C.

I also will be waiting a while to see how it goes before I will eat out. How well will patrons behave and how well will restaurants follow rules? I miss eating out, but do not want to take a risk of a not well done rollout. — Art B.

But many, many others remain reluctant to dine indoors

I still observe too much reckless behavior outdoors, and we still get too many tourists coming through the city from areas with higher infection rates. As much as a I love restaurants, I don’t want to put the workers at risk — I’ll stick to carryout. The risk of spreading the virus indoors just seems way too high. Perhaps in two months, if rates stay low, I’ll reconsider, but allowing indoor dining just as schools are reopening seems like a poor decision to me. — Lee R.

As much as I love to eat in restaurants, all of the evidence suggests increased risks to dining indoors as all of the science shows that SARS-CoV2 is airborne. I have eaten outdoors a few times but indoors is different with ventilation being a major issue. I will not be eating indoors unless I am very confident about special air filtration systems and particle filters. And how many restaurants can afford that?! — Sidney W.

I am a bit reluctant to return to indoor dining anytime soon. I think that it poses a lot of problems. People not adhering to the rules & just being ignorant & thinking only of themselves. I am 71 & that might add to my reasoning. — Katey L.

It’s not about not appreciating the efforts of restaurant owners or hospitality professionals. But given the very nature of this industry, and the fact that we’re dealing with a virus we still know very little about, it is remarkably naïve to think that simply wearing a mask and seating at 25 percent capacity is going to spare hospitality professionals from the wrath of cross-contamination — Rebecca Y.


How do you feel about eating inside NYC restaurants starting next week?

This poll is closed

  • 14%
    I can’t wait
    (301 votes)
  • 12%
    I’ve done it outside of NYC and feel comfortable trying it here as well
    (251 votes)
  • 16%
    I’m going to wait and see
    (331 votes)
  • 23%
    I still have a lot of concerns
    (480 votes)
  • 19%
    I won’t return until there’s a vaccine
    (407 votes)
  • 14%
    I would rather have outdoor dining extended this year
    (292 votes)
2062 votes total Vote Now

Some won’t be dining indoors until there’s a vaccine

The argument about spread by aerosols is only beginning. Eating indoors is not going to be safe until we know a lot more, probably not until there’s a vaccine and then some. This is awful, economically menacing, but better menace the economy than many many lives. — MR

Won’t be eating out — indoors or otherwise — until this is all “over” (vaccines out, etc) — Erick M.

I will not dine indoors at all. My daughters and their boyfriends will not either. My neighbors will not. And my friends will not. There are too many people not wearing masks now as is. I definitely don’t trust being indoors. And don’t trust restaurants to do the right thing. And you are going to need about 1000 inspectors instead of the 400. — Robert S.

Not only will I not be eating indoors at restaurants, I also will stop patronizing restaurants for delivery, takeout, or outdoor dining that start to serve indoors — a sign that they care too little about their (primarily Black and brown) staff. If it means I stop eating out entirely, so be it, and if it means actions like these cause some restaurants to go under, so be it. It simply isn’t worth the risk to employees, and I won’t support restaurants who put them in these conditions. — Ryan M.

While others are banking on an extension of the city’s outdoor dining program

I’m not going to be doing indoor dining. I love the outdoor dining and would do it in long underwear, a few layers, earmuffs, and a down coat. So I hope they continue that... Heat lamps would be good, also. After all the work we have put into staying safe so far, It is just not worth the risk of getting coronavirus eating inside. — Suzanne F.

I think that Gov. Cuomo should extend the length of time that restaurants can have outdoor dining. We may have a really warm fall and could still be eating outdoors. And, since so many restaurants spent money to fix up the areas outside their restaurants for outdoor dining, I think that they could add heaters if they want to make the outdoor dining experience last even longer. I would eat outdoors with my coat on if I really wanted to eat at a restaurant. — Mary W.

We love dining out and feel strongly about supporting restaurants and the city’s dining scene. I’d go in a coat and eat outdoors as long as we can. After that, we will support restaurants by ordering in or picking up a few times a week. — Lauren G.

Hopefully the outdoor dining establishments will get some heat lamps like in Arizona…where it gets chilly at night — because I will NOT be eating inside. Not worth pushing my luck. Most people I know will not eat inside yet. Waiting to see what winter brings. — Nanci Z.