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NYC Restaurants Ramp Up Legal Pressure to Reopen Indoor Dining at Half Capacity

Plus, the city’s first plant-based community fridge is now up and running on Bleecker Street — and more news

Momo Sushi Shack
Momo Sushi Shack, in Bushwick, is one of the restaurants suing the state
Serena Dai/Eater

74 NYC restaurants file a motion to reopen at half capacity

A group of 74 NYC restaurants — including East Williamsburg bar Our Wicked Lady and Bushwick spot Momo Sushi Shack — have filed an emergency motion calling on a New York judge to issue an injunction allowing them to reopen indoor dining at half capacity. The motion is part of an ongoing lawsuit that the restaurants filed against Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the state of New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio, and the city of New York, last month, over what they argued were unpredictable regulations that were costing them thousands of dollars.

“Operating at 25 percent is untenable,” says Kenneth Belkin, the lawyer representing the restaurants, in a statement to Eater. “These businesses simply cannot survive at that capacity. They have already incurred enormous losses and expenses to retrofit and make their businesses safe. The costs of reopening and only being able to file [sic] seats to 25 percent makes it not even worth opening and I feel safe to say that this applies to all eateries in NYC.”

The motion, filed in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, points to half capacity dining in most other parts of the state as one of the reasons to allow NYC to follow suit. The motion states that the restaurants have taken all the necessary precautions to reopen safely, and that “even at 50 percent plaintiffs’ financial survival is not guaranteed.” Separately, City Council member Robert Holden, who represents Middle Village, in Queens, and the Queens Chamber of Commerce are also calling for the state to allow restaurants to reopen at half capacity. The State did not immediately return a request for comment.

Many health experts and the Centers for Disease Control still list indoor dining as one of the highest risk activities for contracting COVID-19, a point experts have stressed again as a reason not to resume indoor dining as new variants of the virus spread throughout the country. Local governments, meanwhile, including in New York, have argued for weighing business interests against public health concerns, as part of their reason to open. Previously, a $500 million class action lawsuit calling for the reopening of indoor dining at half capacity was thrown out by a Staten Island judge. Here are the legal filings in relations to this latest motion:

In other news

— A New York State judge is temporarily allowing 91 restaurants in Erie and Monroe counties, both located in upstate New York, to operate past the current 10 p.m. curfew after the restaurants filed a lawsuit against the state. In NYC, restaurants have been pressing the state to push the 10 p.m. curfew back to 12 a.m.

— Peak — the splashy restaurant located on the 101st floor of a Hudson Yards building — is opening on February 14, coinciding with the return of indoor dining at 25 percent capacity. The restaurant previously directed staffers not to tell diners of a COVID-19 case that had occurred in the building prior to its temporary closure in March.

— Some NYC restaurants defied the city’s temporary suspension of roadside dining yesterday due to the snowstorm. It’s unclear at this time if any of these establishments were issued fines or citations, but Eater has reached out to the city for more information.

— A plant-based community fridge — reportedly the city’s first — is now up and running in front of the Overthrow Boxing Club at 9 Bleecker Street, near Elizabeth Street.

— The team behind Lower East Side cocktail spot Bar Belly is opening a Spanish tapas joint next door. The 44-seat Carlotta, located at 14 Orchard Street, at Canal Street, will likely open later this year.

— NYC’s illegal parties are back in the news. The sheriff’s office busted three parties with hundreds of revelers in Brooklyn and Queens this past weekend.

— Japanese mini-chain Ootoya debuts a month-long onigiri pop-up at its Times Square location today. The restaurant will offer 12 different onigiri like flaked salmon and tuna-mayonnaise from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily from a takeout window, according to a restaurant spokesperson.

— The Flatiron 23rd Street Business Improvement District is launching a new promotion running through March 31 to support local restaurants. Four lucky diners that provide receipts — two winners will be announced on March 1 and two on April 2 — for having visited local establishments will win a meal-a-month deal throughout 2021 from one of the restaurants.

— Ray Alvarez, the owner of the iconic East Village ice cream destination Ray’s Candy Store, turned 88 last week.

— Here for all the nachos: