Return of indoor dining might be postponed

June 30, 2020 Jaime DeJesus
Return of indoor dining might be postponed
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Phase 3 of New York City’s reopening is slated to begin on Monday, July 6. But the return of indoor seating in restaurants might not go as planned.

On Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo hinted there is uncertainty about the restaurant portion of the next phase. Cuomo cited lack of compliance with social distancing, large congregations and local government as complications.

Local elected officials are urging de Blasio to increase social distance education and empower local community groups to educate their neighbors, and to implement consequences for repeated and intentional violations.

According to the New York Post, Bay Ridge was number four out of the top 10 neighborhoods with the most  311 complaints about people shirking social-distancing rules during the past two weekends with 63.

If an enforcement mechanism is not created, the officials want Cuomo and de Blasio to postpone indoor dining.

“Phase 2 or Phase 3 doesn’t mean COVID is gone,” said Councilmember Justin Brannan. “And if we mess this up now, we will erase all the sacrifice and progress we made over the past four months. There needs to be a middle ground between the city doing absolutely nothing about social distancing compliance and just shutting down businesses that are just trying to get back on their feet after months in the dark.

“I agree with the mayor and the NYPD that this isn’t a job for them, but we need an alternative. We have to put pressure on New Yorkers to abide by the rules, socially distance themselves, and wear a mask when going out in public. Community groups are the best equipped to do that job in their own neighborhoods but we need to empower them and have a framework in place to get it done.”

The Kettle Black and Ho’Brah Taco Joint, which have locations in Bay Ridge and Staten Island, wrote a joint letter to their customers about crowd control.

“We have seen social media posts of crowds of people (some with masks, some without) gathered together on the streets in front of and around bars and restaurants from all over the city,” they said. “We have also recently seen pics and posts of our restaurants specifically. To say that we were caught flatfooted moving into Phase 2 would be an understatement. To avoid the same issues we faced in the first week of Phase 2, we immediately implemented a reservation only policy and doubled down on warnings that to-go cocktails are not to be consumed on the street.”

In addition, they said all staff and managers have been instructed that if a guest does not comply with any and all NYS Reopening Restaurant Guidelines that that guest or party will not be served again, whether it’s a meal or meal-to-go/cocktail combo.

“The health and safety of our staff and guests is our number one priority and we look forward to responsibly serving the communities we work and live in,” they said.

“The science is clear: wearing a mask in public reduces the spread of COVID, and the risk of transmission indoors is 20 times greater than that of outdoors,” said State Sen. Andrew Gounardes. “But that doesn’t mean New Yorkers can stand outside of bars and restaurants without wearing masks or socially distancing themselves. While we are all desperate to get back to normal, slacking on social distancing requirements puts our community members’ lives at risk. If we cannot increase compliance with social distancing, we cannot open for indoor dining, and should not until we’re confident that we can keep the rate of transmission below 1.0.”

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