Fear and dread in New York City as 2nd possible indoor dining shutdown looms

Coronavirus update for NYC

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Wednesday, December 9, 2020
2nd indoor dining shutdown possible in New York City
NJ Burkett has the latest on a looming shutdown of indoor dining in New York City.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Makeshift outdoor dining structures that have gone up all over New York City are evidence that restaurants are doing whatever they can to survive.

But if they are forced to completely shut down indoor dining again, many aren't sure they will be able to survive the winter.

And that is exactly the situation now: Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city could be just days away from indoor dining shutting down for the second time in New York City as hospitalization rates rise.

"This health situation has to be addressed," de Blasio said. "So I do think we're going to see restrictions coming. And I think other restrictions have to be on the table so that we're ready to address whatever comes."

Governor Cuomo held a news conference on the rising hospitalizations in New York.

As part of new restrictions announced Monday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo says indoor capacity will need to decrease 25 percent statewide if regional hospitalization rates don't stabilize within five days.

In places like Westchester County or on Long Island, that means indoor capacity could be reduced from 50 to 25 percent.

Meanwhile in Staten island, it has become a tale of two cities split between orange and yellow zones, which means the south cannot have indoor dining but the north shore can.

Lucy Yang has more on the indoor dining restrictions on Staten Island.

Michael Strickland, the owner of West Shore Inn Steakhouse, says the restrictions are ruining his life.

"Every morning I wake up with a pit in my stomach not sure what's going to happen next," he said.

But in New York City, where indoor dining is currently permitted at 25 percent, the decrease would shut down indoor dining completely as temperatures drop and winter arrives.

Restaurants like Fred's on Manhattan's Upper West Side say that will absolutely kill their business.

"We're scared because the winter is long and it's going to be hard," said Fred's owner David Honor. "I feel like if we can get through the winter we'll be fine, but the winter's going to be rough."

New York Gov. Cuomo warned another shutdown is possible

"Obviously, outdoor would continue under this scenario, and outdoor is now permanent," said Mayor Bill de Blasio. "A lot of these restaurants weatherize, so it can work even in colder months takeout and delivery will continue."

Restaurant owners have struggled to stay open. The owners of Benjamin Steakhouse in Midtown built an enclosure that completely covered their sidewalk, determined to take their restaurant outdoors.

Operations director Victor Dedushaj says public officials are facing some tough choices.

"There's very difficult situations to make," Dedushaj said. "And you know...it's easy to blame the government, it really is. So at the same time, he is a man that has to make a decision between people's lives and people's livelihoods. It's not an easy choice."

It has been projected that 50 percent of city restaurants might not survive the pandemic. However, some city leaders are calling for more restrictions.

Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams called on Cuomo to implement new restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19 and protecting vulnerable communities -- to avoid the mistakes and the loss of life seen in the spring. In a letter, Williams criticized Cuomo's "slow and hesitant approach" that he says is reminiscent of mistakes the state and city made in March.

"And there's no reason to wait, our businesses need help," Williams said. "The type of help that they need is not another two or three days of being open. They need support from the state and from the federal government. Like everyone else to help pay their bill so we should focus on that, but not make it worse for everybody else by allowing more time for the virus to spread."

The Hospitality Alliance released a statement, saying:

Another forced government closure of New York City restaurants will cause an irreversible harm on even countless more small businesses and the hundreds of thousands of workers they employ.

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