TIMES SQUARE, Manhattan — Indoor dining and open wedding venues are now on the path to returning to New York City.
Both had been shuttered for weeks, after the holiday season COVID-19 surge.
Their return could be a blueprint for how other aspects of life in the city could reopen, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Friday, but he also said that that process will be very gradual, because he believes the pandemic will go on for years, not months.
Early in his news conference to discuss the pandemic response the governor pointed out that New York City’s COVID-19 rate is on the decline.
“We went from 7.1% in January,” he said. “We’re down to 4.9%. All models project for that number to continue to drop.”
For that reason, said the governor, the city’s restaurants can “[resume] indoor dining at 25% on Valentine’s Day.”
That’s Feb. 14, two weeks from this Sunday.
The announcement got a positive reaction from Michael Chu, the manager of Ichiran Restaurant.
“I’m hoping we can open up as soon as possible [for] indoor dining,” Chu said. “Even 25% I think is still good. We’re thankful we can still be open, because a lot of restaurants on this block have closed for good.”
However, the NYC Hospitality Alliance said in a statement that the reopening wasn’t helpful enough.
“Restaurants are broken-hearted that they need to wait two weeks until Valentine’s Day to open at only 25% occupancy in the city,” the statement said. “While permitting 50% occupancy in dining rooms around the rest of the state, where infections and hospitalization rates from COVID-19 are higher. Restaurants in the city are ready to safely open now.”
The governor’s response was characteristically straightforward.
“Look, 25 % is better than zero and that’s where we are now. If the [infection rates] continue to get better, that number will go up.”
In the Belmont section of the Bronx, many restaurants around Arthur Avenue are closing before dinner.
Lori Coletta owns Tra Di Noi on with her husband, Marco.
“I don’t know how these restaurants are staying open. I don’t know how we re staying open,” she said.
They were hoping for 50% capacity and an earlier reaping for indoor dining.
Also, it’s not just restaurants that are on the path to reopening. Mayor Bill de Blasio said at his daily news conference on Friday that he sees public middle and high school students returning to the classroom this academic year in some capacity.
After that, he continued, “everyone wants to be back and we’ll be back full strength in September.”
Meanwhile, Gov. Cuomo also said that starting March 15, wedding venues can reopen with up to 150 guests, or 50% capacity, provided guests get tested beforehand.
That, along with vaccinations, Cuomo sees as a possible blueprint for places like theaters and stadiums partially reopening, amid a pandemic that the governor said isn’t ending anytime soon.
“I don’t think we’re talking six to nine months,” he said. “I believe this virus is going to be around a long time, and I believe it will mutate. This will be years, I believe it’s not inconceivable [that] you’re going to need different vaccines, or booster shots, in the future.”