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Brooklyn hails early reopening of indoor restaurant dining

Borough 'love riot' to kick off series of pop-up arts events

February 8, 2021 Karen Matthews and Jennifer Peltz, Associated Press
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Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday that indoor restaurant dining can reopen in New York City at 25 percent capacity on Friday, two days before the Valentine’s Day opening he had announced earlier.

Restaurant industry and trade groups all over the city, including Brooklyn, welcomed the news. 

Randy Peers, president of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, said Brooklyn restaurants “are surviving by a thread, and with COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations declining across the city, we’re supporting Governor Cuomo’s decision to move up the safe reopening of highly regulated, 25 percent occupancy indoor dining to Friday before Valentine’s Day.”

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Indoor restaurant service in New York City has been prohibited since Dec. 14 when COVID-19 cases started surging. The gradual loosening of restrictions comes as the post-holiday-season spike in cases in New York and elsewhere appears to be ebbing.

“On behalf of all restaurants in New York City, we’re thankful that Governor Cuomo has heard our plea to allow restaurants to open for the full Valentine’s Day weekend,” said Melissa Fleischut, president of the New York State Restaurant Association.

Cuomo said restaurateurs had asked for the ban on indoor dining to be lifted in advance of Valentine’s Day in order to give them a chance to prepare for the day when romantic dinners are traditional.

‘Open Culture’ events

Also on Monday, Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced separate plans to help revive the performing arts, a sector that, like restaurants, has been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic.

De Blasio said a new “Open Culture” program would launch in more than 100 locations citywide. Groups can start applying for permits March 1 for one-day performances, he said. They can charge for tickets as long as they don’t block passers-by from seeing what they can.

“If we’re really going to bring back the heart and soul of New York City, we need our arts and culture back,” the mayor said at a news conference enlivened by a performance by members of Elisa Monte Dance, a modern dance company based in Harlem.

Cuomo announced that more than 300 pop-up performances will take place across the state starting Saturday, Feb. 20.  

On that day, performers will travel around the city, ending with one of jazz pianist Jon Batiste’s traveling “Love Riots” performances beginning at Walt Whitman Park in Downtown Brooklyn and concluding at the Golconda Playground on Gold Street.

After that inaugural day, performers who will take part in these one-day performances will include actors Hugh Jackman, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kenan Thompson, opera stars Renée Fleming and J’Nai Bridges, performance artist Taylor Mac and dancer Savion Glover.

The Brooklyn Museum will be the venue for at least two of these events; a dance performance by Ayodele Casel, and a performance by singer-songwriter Patti Smith in memory of famed photographer Robert Mapplethorpe.

Broadway theaters and other indoor performing arts venues have been closed since last March, dealing a heavy blow to New York’s famed arts scene. Even large outdoor concert series and the popular Shakespeare in the Park shows were canceled last summer.

—Additional material by Raanan Geberer


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