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Indoor Dining May Expand to 75 Percent Statewide Starting March 19 Except in NYC

Plus, a look at the future of wine directors at restaurants across the city — and more intel

Restaurants outside of NYC may reopen at 75 percent capacity starting March 19
Photo by ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images

New York restaurants can expand to 75 percent capacity indoors except in NYC

New York restaurants outside of the five boroughs can expand indoor dining capacity to 75 percent starting March 19, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced yesterday. NYC restaurants, meanwhile, will continue to operate at 35 percent capacity indoors for now.

All of the same safety restrictions will remain in place for restaurants increasing their capacity outside of the city, and Cuomo didn’t rule out changing the mandate should cases rise again between now and March 19. The decision, meanwhile, will now have to be approved by the New York legislature after Cuomo was stripped of his emergency powers due to accusations of sexual harassment against the governor and his administration’s role in the nursing home scandal.

The announcement mirrors the trend seen throughout the pandemic. Restaurants outside the city operated for months at half capacity while those in the city were limited to 25 percent. State officials have continually cited NYC’s density, and the fact that it was initially the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S., as reasons for reopening more gradually in the city. Cuomo did not indicate Sunday if or when NYC restaurants would be able to expand capacity. Eater has reached out to Cuomo’s office for more details.

This marks the first time restaurants in New York have been able to operate at 75 percent capacity indoors since the start of the pandemic-related restrictions in March 2020. The move comes on the heels of Connecticut governor Ned Lamont’s announcement last week that restaurants in that state would be able to operate at 100 percent capacity starting March 19.

The reopening announcements reflect a larger national trend of relaxed restrictions as COVID-19 cases continue to decline nationwide. Health experts have cautioned against this recent push for reopening, and Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical advisor, says the country should not relax restrictions until cases fall below 10,000 new cases on average per day. The number is currently hovering below 50,000. On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report showing an increase in COVID-19 cases and deaths after states relaxed restrictions on indoor dining. The National Restaurant Association condemned the report, saying it didn’t take into account activities at other opened businesses.

In other news

The New York Times wine critic Eric Asimov spoke with wine directors at restaurants across the city about what the future looks like for the industry.

— A car crash at the corner of East 50th Street and Second Avenue Friday morning left seven people injured, destroyed the outdoor dining structure of Crave Fishbar, and a fruit vendor stand. The vendor was able to reopen just a day later with the help of friends.

— A four-alarm fire that started in the basement of a Jackson Heights restaurant Prince Kebab & Chinese Restaurant, according to the FDNY, damaged several neighboring businesses last week. No civilians were hurt but six firefighters were treated at the scene for minor injuries.

— Another weekend, another illegal rave. The NYC sheriff’s office busted a warehouse party with 142 people drinking and dancing without their masks on early Saturday morning.

— Starting Mondays off right: