Indoor dining returns for first time in months

September 30, 2020 Jaime DeJesus
Indoor dining returns for first time in months
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It’s back.

For the first time since March, New York City is permitting indoor dining for restaurants.

Despite an increase in COVID-19 cases in parts of Brooklyn and Queens, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that today is the first day eateries can serve customers inside at 25 percent capacity.

“It’s crucial to bringing back more jobs and helping businesses to survive,” he said. “But health and safety, as always, come first. So there will be very clear conditions and restrictions and rules here. And a lot of communication has happened with the restaurant industry to make sure everyone understands that temperature checks must be conducted at the front door for anyone going in for indoor dining.”

Tables must be spaced six feet apart, bar tops won’t to be allowed for seating, and PPE must be available for employees.

While some are pleased that restaurants are getting help, others say it’s not enough.

“Twenty-five percent capacity for indoor dining is ‘crumbs’ and we need the full loaf,” the management of Gino’s Restaurant told this paper. “This may work for now, but as the weather gets colder, no one is going to want to eat outside. The capacities will need to be raised. Otherwise we are back to square one trying to rearrange our business yet another time.”

Skinflints restaurant in Bay Ridge. Photos courtesy of Skinflints Facebook page

“On Fifth Avenue in Sunset Park, over 30 restaurants offer outdoor dining every day, and 18 of them have car-free street dining on the weekends,” said David Estrada, executive director of the Sunset Park BID. “We’re thrilled the NYC Open Restaurants program has been extended year-round and will continue through next year. The Sunset Park BID will remain committed to sponsoring the weekend Open Streets: Restaurants zones as long as possible.”

Estrada said that while the start of 25 percent capacity indoor dining is a very good step, many restaurants don’t have the resources or expertise to meet all the important public health requirements to reopen.

“After months of closures and reduced income, many restaurants will need help reconfiguring air filtration systems and learning to take staff and customer temperatures, collect diners’ contact information, maintain staff health and site cleaning logs, along with following all the other new regulations,” he said. “For many of our smallest restaurants, 25 percent of interior capacity might mean just a few tables if they’re set up with proper social distancing. So we anticipate some restaurants won’t take on the additional cost of inside dining until the city allows at least 50 percent capacity.”

De Blasio said the city will focus on neighborhoods that have seen an increase in COVID-19 cases, including Gravesend, Bensonhurst and Borough Park.

Gino’s restaurant in Bay Ridge. Photo courtesy of Gino’s Facebook page

“We’re going to be looking carefully to make sure every restaurant is following the rules,” he said. “If we see the kinds of violations that create problems, like employees not wearing a mask or a violation of the 25 percent limit; if a restaurant has more than 25 percent capacity, whether it’s diners or if we see alcohol being consumed at a bar, those are the kinds of things that will lead to immediate summonses.

“We need to be very rigorous everywhere in the city, but particularly in the ZIP codes in Brooklyn and Queens where we’re having a problem right now.”

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