The pressure to reopen indoor dining in the city is likely to intensify now that New Jersey is reopening indoor dining with limited capacity starting Friday.
"With indoor dining resuming soon in New Jersey, New York City will be surrounded by indoor dining but locked out from participating at significant economic peril," said Andrew Rigie, executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance. "The situation is at a boiling point, and our government leaders must immediately develop a plan to reopen indoor dining across the five boroughs, like what's been provided to restaurants throughout the rest of the state. Otherwise, our city's economic crisis will reach a point it cannot come back from, with thousands of more restaurants permanently closing and likely more lawsuits filed against the government."
Cuomo says he understands the decision puts New York City restaurants at a "competitive disadvantage," but the city faces other hurdles.
"We are coming into Labor Day," he said. "Labor Day will see more people going back to school. That is a factor we have to watch. We're coming into the fall. Flu season is a factor that we have to watch."
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He also indicated the lack of compliance enforcement is not helping. Cuomo asked out loud who will monitor the restaurants if they are only permitted to occupy 25% of their indoor dining space?
Cuomo said the state is watching and considering but not rushing into a decision, while de Blasio sounded far more dire and suggested indoor dining may be months away.
"We do expect, and pray for and expect, a vaccine in the spring that will allow us to get more back to normal," de Blasio said.
New York City restaurants also face competition from neighboring Long Island and Westchester suburbs where indoor dining has been in place for weeks.
De Blasio said he hoped to have more to say about indoor dining soon but did not seem hopeful.
"It would take a huge step forward to get to that point, and that's the truth," he said.
Jeremy Wladis is a longtime restaurant owner who says he is well aware of the city's low infection rate and can't understand why officials won't approve indoor dining.
"If I could explain, I would be doing something other than restaurants because I would be much smarter to explain why the governor refused to open us up," he said.
Wladis estimates more than half of the surviving restaurants in New York City won't make it past October if indoor dining isn't reinstated soon.
"Our restaurants are hanging on by just a thread," Rigie said. "They are the backbone of our community. They employ hundreds of thousands of people. We need indoor dining or we are going to lose thousands more small businesses."
Jason Clark is one of the owners of Hold Fast on West 46th Street, also known as Restaurant Row. With fall and colder weather just around the corner, he also fears restaurants cannot survive keeping customers out in the cold
"Please give us an opportunity to move forward, to allow our guests to have that experience, we will take care of public health," Clark said. "That's always been our top priority, just give us guidelines and we will follow them."
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