‘What is the plan?’ NYC restaurant owners plead for clarity on when indoor dining can resume

Restaurateurs in New York City are pleading for clarity on when they are going to be allowed to supply indoor dining, warning of dire financial penalties as the monthslong prohibition drags on throughout the coronavirus pandemic. 

“The restaurant industry is going to die as we know it in this city. How can we not, at least, open at a small percentage? Even 50%. If not, we’re going to lose a lot of restaurants in this city,” Melba Wilson mentioned Wednesday on CNBC’s “Power Lunch.”  

Wilson — the founding father of Melba’s, which serves up American consolation meals in Harlem — acknowledged the well being considerations from policymakers in a state that was as soon as the epicenter of the U.S.’ Covid-19 outbreak. But she questioned the totally different insurance policies on indoor dining in close by components of New York state, reminiscent of Westchester County and Long Island. 

She famous the share of optimistic coronavirus assessments in New York City has hovered proper round 1% for a lot of August. “We have not just met the metrics. We have sustained the metrics,” Wilson mentioned. 

Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Aug. 19 referred to as it “just absurd” to check New York City to different areas of the state, saying they range in total inhabitants and density. And the coronavirus outbreak in Westchester County, for instance, was by no means as intense because it was in New York City, he contended.

“They are two totally different environments, and are we more careful in New York City because of those factors? Of course we are. It would be negligent not to be,” mentioned Cuomo, who possesses final authority on when to allow indoor dining in New York City.

Restaurants in New York City have been allowed to start providing outside dining in late June as the state proceeded via its phased financial reopening; officers even have made it simpler for eating places to broaden seating onto sidewalks and into streets. 

But plans to permit restricted indoor dining have been paused indefinitely in early July, simply days earlier than it was set to return. At the time, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio referenced rising Covid-19 circumstances in different components of the U.S. that he mentioned have been linked to indoor eating places and bars. 

Cuomo mentioned on July 1 that it could be on maintain “until the facts change and it is prudent to open. At this point, it isn’t prudent.” Cuomo final week additionally indicated that expanded outside dining could also be put on pause as the climate turns chilly in the fall and winter. 

Critics of de Blasio and Cuomo say there has not been sufficient transparency about the set of details that might be required to reopen indoor dining, particularly as fall approaches and the outside service that has been a monetary lifeline can also be in jeopardy. 

“The last thing that we want is a second surge” of coronavirus infections, Nate Adler, who based Gertie, an all-day cafe in Brooklyn, mentioned on “Power Lunch.” “We do have to be super careful about that because that is what is really going to put the nail in the coffin for a lot of restaurants.” 

“That being said, we’ve been given no direction and no guidance and no notice on any of the decisions that have been made thus far by the mayor’s office, by the governor’s office,” he added. “What we would like to know is, what is the plan?” 

‘Fight for reduction’ 

Adler alluded to feedback made earlier this week by de Blasio, who appeared to counsel it could be 2021 earlier than indoor dining is permitted once more. “If folks miss the theater, if they miss the indoor dining, those things will be back. They’ll be back next year at some point,” de Blasio mentioned, in response to the New York Post

“If that is actually going to be the case, then we need to know and we need to fight for relief,” mentioned Adler. 

Wilson mentioned the financial burden of not having the ability to supply indoor dining is felt not solely by restaurant owners, it extends to the lots of of hundreds of restaurant employees who collectively make up an trade that is “the fabric of this city,” she mentioned. 

In February, earlier than the coronavirus pandemic upended day by day life, roughly 324,000 individuals labored at bars and eating places in New York City, in response to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In July, that quantity had fallen to simply beneath 162,000, a decline of about 50%. 

New York City had an total unemployment fee of 20% in July, up from 4.3% final yr, in response to preliminary information from the state Department of Labor launched Tuesday. 

“The mayor has dined with us here at Melba’s, so we know that he cares. He knows the importance of this. He knows that it’s important for my employees to know, how are they going to pay their bills? How are we going to pay our bills?” Wilson mentioned.

“The rent bills are still coming in. … We have 100% of the bills, fixed costs that have to be paid, however, while we’re getting 20% of the income,” she added. 

De Blasio’s workplace didn’t instantly reply to CNBC’s request for remark.

In an e mail to CNBC, Cuomo spokesman Will Burns famous that the governor relaxed guidelines on alcoholic drinks for carryout and supply to assist eating places, in addition to established a $100 million fund for small enterprise loans. He additionally harassed that New York state would “continue to follow the science” because it navigates the financial reopening.  

“Our phased reopening is focused solely on protecting public health,” he wrote. 

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