The return of indoor dining Wednesday comes at a precarious moment for the city. For the first time since early June, the daily coronavirus positivity rate climbed above 3 percent. Officials blame spikes in several neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens.
"We're going to watch carefully and report publicly,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday when asked if the city was planning any changes to the start of indoor dining. "And if anything looks more problematic, we'll talk to the State and we'll decide together if any adjustments have to be made.”
While indoor dining has been underway in other parts of the state since June, officials had been hesitant to allow it to resume in the city, fearful it could lead to an uptick in coronavirus cases. But after intense lobbying from the reeling restaurant industry, the state decided earlier this month to let diners head back inside.
For the last few months, restaurants have had to rely on outdoor dining to stay afloat, with many across the city setting up tables alongside bike lanes and in the middle of streets closed to traffic.
For many restaurant owners, that has not been enough. A report released last week showed that 87 percent of restaurants and bars surveyed in the city were unable to pay their full August rent.
Restaurant owners have been spending the last few weeks getting ready for this day.
As you venture back inside, here’s what you need to know:
How many people will be allowed to eat inside?
Restaurants can reopen their indoor spaces with a 25 percent occupancy limit. This does not include the staff or customers seated in the outdoor dining area. Tables will also be spread out to ensure proper social distancing between parties. Establishments must also close by midnight.
What safety protocols will you have to follow?
Before you can even walk inside, you will have to have your temperatures taken. You must also wear face coverings while not seated. And one person from your party will have to leave their contact information so Test + Trace can reach out should an outbreak occur.
If a restaurant has a bar, will you be able to hang out or sit there?
No. Bars will only be used as a place to make drinks, which must be served tableside. Bars that do not offer food are still unable to reopen, which also means that you will still need to purchase a meal with an alcoholic beverage.
Does the return of indoor dining affect outdoor dining?
No, not at all. Outdoor dining is here to stay, the mayor announced last week. The Open Streets program, which closes streets to vehicular traffic to create more space for seating, has been made permanent.
How will the city make sure restaurants are operating safely?
To ensure safety measures are being implemented, the city will deploy a team of 400 enforcement personnel to work with the state police task force.
The State is also asking customers who observe violations to report issues by calling 833-208-4160, or by texting 'VIOLATION' to 855-904-5036.
Guidelines will be reassessed and a decision on whether restaurants can serve at 50 percent capacity will be made by November 1, according to the state’s website.
Mayor de Blasio has said he will reassess whether indoor dining should continue if the seven-day average climbs above 3 percent.