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New York Will End Dining Curfew, Bring Back Bar Seating Next Month

The first round of changes go into effect starting on May 3

People fill outdoor dining structures lining a street on the Upper West Side amid the coronavirus pandemic on April 10, 2021 in New York City.
Restaurants will no longer have to shut down at midnight starting in late May
Photo by Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced today that the midnight curfew for NYC restaurants and bars will be eliminated next month, and bar seating in the city can resume as soon as next week.

Beginning on May 3, bar seating will be allowed in NYC after being off limits for more than a year. Restrictions on catering businesses have also been loosened, with catered events at residences allowed again starting the same day. The 12 a.m. curfew will be lifted for outdoor dining starting on May 17, and indoor dining starting May 31, according to a press release from the governor’s office.

“Lifting these restrictions for restaurants, bars and catering companies will allow these businesses that have been devastated by the pandemic to begin to recover as we return to a new normal in a post-pandemic world,” Cuomo said in a statement on the news.

The move follows months of pushback from restaurant and bar owners across the city, who have been calling on elected officials to lift the state’s midnight curfew. Industry trade groups and local politicians have also spoken out against the curfew, calling it an unfair, “arbitrary” restriction that hampers the ability of restaurateurs to bring in revenue due to earlier cutoff times.

“These outdated policies made it too difficult for too many small business owners and workers to support themselves and their families, and were a grave inconvenience to customers,” Andrew Rigie, the executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance, said in a statement. “Lifting these restrictions is an important step forward for restaurants and bars across New York City, and we will continue working with the state to safely and completely reopen our hospitality industry, bring back jobs and sustain vital small businesses.”

The New York State Restaurant Association echoed support for relaxing the curfew and bar seating mandates.

Subway service, meanwhile, is still shutting down nightly between 2 and 4 a.m. Owners have previously questioned how staff can be expected to work once the curfew is lifted without easy access to public transit during overnight hours.

Reopening efforts in neighboring states, meanwhile, continue to keep pace. In New Jersey, restaurants and bars have been operating without a curfew since February, while Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont recently announced the state’s curfew for restaurants and bars would be extended until midnight beginning on May 1.

As of April 26, the COVID-19 test positivity rate on a seven-day average in NYC was 3.4 percent, according to city data, tracking below officials’ safety threshold of 5 percent. More than 8.9 million New Yorkers — more than 44 percent of the state population — have received at least one dose of the vaccine at the time of publication, according to state data.

This story has been updated with additional comments from industry trade groups.

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