Indoor Dining Postponed Indefinitely

Indoor Dining Postponed Indefinitely
Outdoor dining in Park Slope. Ellie Plass, Bklyner.

This morning Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo announced their decision to hold off on reopening indoor dining at local restaurants, originally scheduled to start next week. The announcement came on the heels of reports of cases spiking in many other states, including Florida and Texas, that had allowed indoor dining earlier.

Governor Cuomo cited noncompliance both with mask-wearing and social distancing during the current phase, and insufficient enforcement as factors in postponing the reopening process.

“All the numbers are good across the state, but we do have a problem in New York City,” Governor said at today’s briefing.”And again, it’s partially the other states going up and we’re worried about that. And it’s partially lack of citizen compliance and lack of local government compliance enforcement.”

“Look at any street in Manhattan. Go to the East Village, go to the Westside, go to Brooklyn, go to Queens, go to the Bronx. Citizen compliance is slipping. I get it, I understand it. Been inside a long time, the weather’s warm, I miss my friends, governor says everything’s good,” Cuomo commiserated, before reminding that young folks are not immune to  COVID-19. “Look around the country, look at the places where young people are getting sick, and they’re now sitting in ICU beds. That was old information and bad information that young people don’t get sick. And, young people can infect older people, inadvertently. You can go home, see an aunt, see your parents. You can walk past someone, have a conversation. You infect older people, older people can die. That’s what we’re talking about. So even if you want to risk your own young life because you believe you’re immune and you’re a superhero, why would you risk someone else’s life? That’s a problem.”

Bill Fletcher, the proprietor of Fletcher’s Brooklyn Barbecue, thinks that delaying indoor dining was the right decision.

“I think it’s really smart. I personally think that we’re opening up all of the phases in New York City a little bit quickly, without enough opportunity to see what’s going to happen. Also, a good portion of my crew got sick back in April, so I’m worried about them,” Fletcher said.

In informal polls done with his customers, he says that close to ¾ of them are uninterested in returning to indoor dining, especially those who are older or have children. Fletcher’s put several tables outside for guests to eat their take-out or delivery orders, but have yet to return to table service.

Andrew Rigie, the director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance, released a statement today saying that while the alliance respects the decision for health reasons, they have concerns about the possibilities for reopening.

“The longer neighborhood restaurants and bars are forced to be closed, the harder it will be for them to ever successfully reopen,” Rigie said, calling on officials to forgive rent and expand outdoor dining.

Fletcher agrees with Cuomo that the compliance of rules has not been perfect, and says that there have been several altercations between guests who refuse to distance or wear masks and his staff.

“It’s challenging to deal with,” he said.

For a smaller restaurant like Fletcher’s, which will have a distanced capacity of only 25, the postponing of indoor dining can be a blessing in disguise.

“I think this is good for business. I think that there are a lot of places that can probably accommodate socially distanced indoor dining better than we can, so in all honesty it may actually take business away from us if all the restaurants start opening up again,” Fletcher said.