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Brooklyn business community welcomes return of indoor dining

Cuomo’s move follows months of protests

September 9, 2020 Raanan Geberer Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Marina Villeneuve and Michael Hill Associated Press
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Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s announcement on Wednesday that New York City restaurants can resume indoor dining on Sept. 30 at 25 percent capacity came as restaurant owners were reaching their breaking point. Many were saying they couldn’t survive much longer, and several lawsuits were in the works.

Nevertheless, Brooklyn’s business community welcomed the move, even though there are some in the business and commercial arenas, such as Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis (R-Bay Ridge-Staten Island), who have demanded that restaurants be allowed to open with at least half capacity.

Randy Peers, president and CEO of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, said, in part, “Brooklyn’s restaurant industry is essential to the borough’s economic recovery, and safely reopening indoor dining will help these small businesses pay rent, predict and plan for the future and rehire staff. Although 25 percent capacity may not be a viable solution for all Brooklyn restaurants, we are grateful to Governor Cuomo for helping to save our neighborhood businesses and jobs.”

Cuomo said all customers will undergo temperature checks at the door, and one member of each party will have to provide information for contact tracing if needed. Customers will not be able to sit at bars, which will be to provide drinks for table service, and restaurants must close at midnight. Tables will be required to be 6 feet apart, and customers must wear masks while not at the table.

Addressing such concerns, Peers of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce said that “the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce has grants available for deep cleanings and thermometers in stock as part of the PPE supplies funded through the Bring Back Brooklyn Fund and NewYork-Presbyterian.”

The announcement followed several months of complaints, agitation and political pressure by restaurant owners, trade groups and elected officials, in Brooklyn and elsewhere, who complained that indoor dining was allowed everywhere else in the state, including just across the border in Nassau and Westchester counties.

As recently as Sept. 3, State Sen. Andrew Gounardes led a meeting of southern Brooklyn restaurant owners at Chadwick’s Restaurant, 8822 Third Ave., to demand guidelines from the mayor and governor for the return of indoor dining, according to the Brooklyn Reporter.

Junior’s Restaurant in Downtown Brooklyn is currently open for takeout service and outdoor dining. Photo: Mark Lennihan/AP

“I’ve been in this business with my father Gerry Morris at Chadwick’s for 33 years and I have never gone through anything as tough as we are right now,” Chadwick’s co-owner Steven Oliver said at the meeting. “We are blessed to have outdoor space, but depending on the weather, it’s been up and down.”

Earlier, in August, Gounardes joined Councilmember Justin Brannan to ask Gov. Andrew Cuomo to prioritize issuing guidance on indoor dining for the five boroughs. Indoor dining has been allowed to resume with guidelines elsewhere in New York State. “Right now, New Yorkers can travel a few miles to Long Island or Westchester for indoor dining and then come right back to New York City,” the two officials said in a joint statement.

Also in August, a group of 100 Brooklyn and Staten Island restaurants said they were planning a class-action suit to force the city and state to reopen indoor dining in the city.

Thomas Casatelli, who owns four restaurants in the two boroughs, told the New York Post at the time that “it feels like the government is moving the goal posts,” referring to the fact that the city and state originally planned to open up restaurants to indoor dining in early July, then canceled plans at the last minute. Malliotakis, at Richmond County Courthouse, joined the lawsuit.

“Restaurants are essential to New York’s economic and social fabric, and indoor dining is a key component to the industry’s recovery,” Andrew Rigie, executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance, said in an emailed statement.

Riccardo Massetti and Elena Salati of Cremini’s in Carroll Gardens. Photo: Maurizio Bacci/AP

De Blasio had said in late June that New York City was on track to allow indoor dining at half capacity starting July 6. But it was put on hold over worries about the risk of dining in crowded, enclosed indoor areas where people are talking loudly and drinking.

The city has since been able to keep the spread of the virus in check, with about 1 percent of tests coming back positive.

“We knew that compliance was lacking in New York City. That was a reason for caution,” Cuomo said at a Wednesday briefing.

Neighboring New Jersey recently enacted similar rules.

Cuomo said the state could halt indoor dining if infection rates go up. But if it remains steady, New York City could lift more restrictions on indoor dining starting Nov. 1, when Cuomo said the state will look at the infection data and decide whether to allow increased capacity at restaurants.

“We’ll just watch it and see what we hear and study the evidence,” Cuomo said.

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