NEW YORK — After facing pressure to lift the COVID-19 restrictions at bars and restaurants that New Yorkers were increasingly considering arbitrary, Governor Andrew Cuomo relented Wednesday and agreed to end curfews next month.
According to a press release, the curfew for outdoor dining areas will end starting May 17 and indoor areas starting May 31.
Seating at bars will also be allowed once again in New York City starting May 3.
The decision drew mixed reactions from representatives of the restaurant industry.
"New York City's restaurants and bars have been financially devastated by COVID-19 restrictions and it's great news that the state will finally undo the barstool ban and lift the arbitrary midnight curfew," Andrew Rigie, executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance, said in a statement. "These outdated policies made it too difficult for too many small business owners and workers to support themselves and their families, and were a grave inconvenience to customers."
“Why we are waiting until May 17 to eliminate the curfew outdoors and May 31 to eliminate the curfew indoors is hard for me to understand,” said Scott Wexler, a member of the Empire State Restaurant and Tavern Association. “So, not only is it a day late, it’s weeks or months late. But it’s still a step in the right direction.”
Cuomo also announced the 1 a.m. curfew for catered events where attendees have provided proof of vaccination status or a recent negative COVID-19 test result will be lifted beginning May 17. The curfew for all catered events is set to be lifted May 31.
Additionally, the governor's release says catered events can resume at residences beginning May 3 above the state's residential gathering limit of 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors, as long as the events are "staffed by a professional, licensed caterer, permitted by the respective locality or municipality, and strictly adhere to health and safety guidance, including social and event gathering limits, masks, and social distancing."
Also on May 3, Cuomo says the guidance for dancing among attendees at catered events will be aligned with neighboring states, replacing fixed dance zones for each table with social distancing and masks.
"Lifting these restrictions for restaurants, bars and catering companies will allow these businesses that have been devastated by the pandemic to begin to recover as we return to a new normal in a post-pandemic world," Cuomo said in a statement.
Just two weeks ago, Cuomo announced that bars and restaurants would have their curfews for customers extended from 11 p.m. to midnight. Cuomo hastily made the announcement to end the curfew restrictions altogether after learning that the legislature would move to repeal certain executive orders, something it hadn’t done since the pandemic began.
Cuomo’s announcement prompted this response from Mike Murphy, a spokesperson for the State Senate Democrats:
The Senate voted on Wednesday to rescind the governor’s executive order, which required that customers order food items along with their drinks at bars and restaurants.
“Today, we are going to be taking up some privileged resolutions to repeal some of the directives by executive order that the governor has issued over the latest year that the Senate believes are no longer necessary and serve an arbitrary function,” said Deputy Majority Leader Michael Gianaris.
After the Senate repealed the executive order, the Assembly did the same.
The actions by the legislature come as COVID-19 cases are falling throughout the state, with more and more people getting vaccinated.
“This resolution, like things we’ve done recently, are a sign that we are moving in a positive direction,” said Democratic Assemblywoman Monica Wallace. “Every day, more and more New Yorkers are getting vaccinated, and we are beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel.”
Unlike the repeal of the curfews, which are delayed until next month, the overturning of the food with drinks executive order takes effect immediately for bars and restaurants statewide.