NYC Reconsidering Whether to Open Restaurants for Indoor Service Next Week

New York City is on track to start its Phase 3 reopening on July 6, as Covid-19 case numbers and deaths have remained low in recent days. But officials are now getting nervous about one of the key elements of Phase 3 — opening bars and restaurants for indoor service.

In other parts of the country, some major outbreaks have been traced to bars and restaurants, and Councilmember Mark Levine has been agitating for New York City to slow restaurant reopenings.

To open for Phase 3, restaurants would have to limit capacity to 50% of the normal maximum and keep tables at least six feet away from each other — or put physical barriers between them — among other rules.

Some local restaurants have already been installing plexiglass to attempt to keep patrons’ germs from spreading. But it doesn’t seem like those efforts have been foolproof in other states, particularly if mask-wearing isn’t ubiquitous.

Instead of indoor seating, restaurants would continue to seat people outside. The city is attempting to open up more space to allow for extra seating.

Gov. Cuomo is now considering whether to delay the reopening of indoor service and will likely decide by Wednesday.

Photo by CitySwift.

NEWS | 21 comments | permalink
    1. Danielle Remp says:

      I’m relieved about this prudent hesitation, especially when it comes with a possible solution:

      During Gov. Cuomo’s briefing yesterday, he mentioned the possible use of HEPA filters to alleviate the spread of covid via restaurant air-conditioners.

      I hope that these filters will contribute toward revitalizing *all* of the city’s indoor venues, while also restoring the restaurant segment, along with the estimated three million jobs that it generates within the U.S.

      • Paul says:

        Some restaurants have the ability to almost completely open their fronts to the outside, and together with fans perhaps these can open some inside tables.
        Others? The track record so far is more than a bit concerning.

    2. AC says:

      Its becoming more and more apparent that the issue with in-door service has nothing to do with social distancing and masks. Commercial heating ventilation and air conditioning systems (HVAC), unlike those in airplanes, are unable to prevent the virus from spreading. This is partly the reason why several states are against opening shopping malls, movie houses, or theatre venues. You could be 16 feet away from someone within an enclosed structure and the HVAC system can spread that virus as if that person was two feet away from you.
      Outdoors in open air is still the safest place.

    3. yoyomama43 says:

      I think we should pause. Even now, just as a pedestrian who has to walk through the jam-packed outdoor dining situation — where most people are NOT wearing masks in close proximity — it’s impossible to stay 6-feet away from people and it gives me the heebies. If restaurants suddenly do outdoor AND indoor dining, the density of (non-mask wearing) people outside will only increase (as people line up to go inside as well). It’s a recipe for a resurgence. Let’s at least see if we can pass the incubation period of outdoor dining for a month without a significant spike.

    4. Ethan says:

      Indoors is the problem, more than the six feet or ten feet or whatever. I realized recently that except for 1) my home, 2) a particular friend’s home, and 3) trips to the supermarket, I have not been indoors since mid-March. That’s 3 1/2 months. And none the worse for wear, I might add!

    5. Kathleen says:

      50% of capacity in NYC restaurants is like 100% capacity in most other places. People are so crammed in in restaurants here that it’s difficult to move between tables without bumping into or squeezing by someone’s chair or table. Opening indoor bars and restaurants so quickly…not a good plan. We’ve done amazingly well here in NYC, let’s keep it that way. Covid-19 is not gone and we need to go slowly, as hard as that is.

      • Fiberoid says:

        Putting aside the question of whether HEPA filters are effective in reducing transmission of the virus, it seems to me that we are misplacing our faith in setting up tables 6′ apart. It’s not the spacing of the tables that might make a difference: it’s the spacing of the chairs. An average-sized person seated in a restaurant chair takes up nearly 2′ of space. (I measured my own dining arrangement to be sure.) Getting into and out of the chair often involves bumping into the chair behind you. Two people at adjoining tables getting up or being seated at the same time might as well be hugging. Nope, no thank you: whatever the Governor decides about indoor dining, I’m staying with takeout and delivery for a while longer.

    6. Chris says:

      With the very desirable opening of outdoor restaurant seating…. there is a problem that I don’t think people have recognized yet. There is a need for “port a John” to provide outdoor bathrooms. As there are no bathroom facilities – for example along Amsterdam ave in the 80’s people are using the fronts of buildings – esp on the neighboring side streets….

    7. Bobby Rose says:

      Indoor seating at restaurants should be postponed

    8. Giulia says:

      We were the guinea pigs for the first wave but we don’t have to be now. We can look at other states and see just how bad an idea this is. I just took a flight and everyone was masked (they actually kicked someone off the plane when he refused to wear a mask) and distanced (they blocked off middle seats); that and the existence of HEPA filters made me feel pretty safe, and with any luck I will receive a negative COVID test in a couple of days.

      But at a restaurant by definition, you cannot be masked the entire time since the entire point of going to restaurant is to eat and drink.


    9. Susan says:

      Here’s some recent research on aerosol studies from a respected researcher, not large particles that we’ve all been told about. Once you read about it, going to restaurants might not seem like the best idea.

    10. Joanne says:

      I agree and don’t understand the rush for indoor dining. I love the way the city is allowing restaurants to use parking spots for tables. It makes the city seem more lively and fun.

    11. Wijmlet says:

      Much too soon

    12. blacklikeu says:

      Keep indoor eating at restaurants closed until January 2021 or until a vaccine is ready.
      Hard on the owners, will be harder for the people getting infected.

      • West Ender says:

        There is no guarantee a vaccine will be effective or that it will work for everyone! People need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. We can’t continue to live indoors, in fear, while small businesses struggle. If you personally find the risk of indoor dining too great; don’t go. But don’t force your fears on others.

    13. Wijmlet says:

      Excellent to reconsider: too soon.

    14. Jill says:

      As much as I feel terrible for all of our restaurants, I feel that it is safer to not eat indoors. I have seen some very creative ways of outdoor seating and I believe that with time, these seating areas will become even better. I keep doing takeout as I want to support my favorite UWS institutions.

    15. Beverly says:

      Please don’t open restaurants!