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De Blasio Supports Ongoing Restaurant Curfew As Restrictions Lift for Other Businesses

The 11 p.m. curfew has been a source of ire for many restaurant and bar owners

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio helps to distribute food in the Elmhurst neighborhood of Queens borough on February 19, 2021 in New York City.
NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio
Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images
Erika Adams is the editor of Eater Boston.

New York’s pandemic curfew for businesses including gyms and movie theaters lifts today, but restaurants and bars remain restricted from operating past 11 p.m. The decision to keep the curfew in place for restaurants and bars has been a source of ire for many owners, but in a Monday press conference Mayor Bill de Blasio said that he was in favor of continuing to restrict operating hours for places where people eat and drink in order to keep maskless activities in check.

“I think it is fair to say that there are a variety of situations in which people are not as conscientious and when it gets later in the day, and [people] are more tired — and certainly if they have had a drink — there’s different realities,” de Blasio said. “I’m someone who thinks keeping some limits on is smart while we’re in this final battle against COVID-19.”

NYC’s health commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi underscored the mayor’s sentiments and agreed that additional restrictions should be in place for “activities where it is harder to wear a mask consistently and properly.” The city has strongly advocated for diners to wear masks at restaurants and bars except when actively eating and drinking, but the activity inherently requires a lot of mask juggling and inconsistent wear while consuming food and drink. The current state guidelines — which supersede the city’s recommendations — only require diners to wear masks when they’re not seated.

“This is the time for us to not abandon the things that have worked for us during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Chokshi said. “It’s particularly important right now when we still see a relatively high level of cases, but we have a chance to bend that curve downward.”

Restaurant and bar trade groups and local politicians have previously spoken out against the curfew, calling it an unfair, “arbitrary” restriction that hampers the ability to bring in revenue due to earlier order cutoff times. Still, the curfew for restaurants and bars will remain ongoing at least until mid-April, when the state will re-assess the situation, according to the governor’s office.

As of April 3, the COVID-19 test positivity rate on a seven-day average in NYC was 6.55 percent, according to city data, tracking above officials’ safety threshold of 5 percent. Outside of the city, in upstate New York and Connecticut, local health officials have recorded an uptick in case counts following a recent slew of loosened capacity restrictions.

City officials are also keeping an eye on vaccination rates during NYC’s reopening efforts. Over 1.4 million NYC residents have been fully vaccinated as of April 5, according to city data. The mayor has set a goal to vaccinate five million city residents by June. The state has opened up vaccination eligibility to all New Yorkers ages 16 and older starting April 6.