NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- New York City's highly anticipated return of indoor dining begins on Wednesday. Restaurants across the city are now able to welcome customers back inside their establishments at 25% capacity.
The decision was made early in September by Governor Andrew Cuomo, who said the reopening was made possible thanks to the compliance by New Yorkers.
In addition to the 25% capacity limit, indoor dining resumes with the following safety measures required, as outlined by Mayor Bill de Blasio:
*Contact info for each party collected for Test & Trace Corps
*Tables spaced six feet apart
*Bar tops closed for seating
*PPE and other protections for employees
The Grand Central Oyster Bar is just one of thousands of restaurants finally ready for business.
Its doors stayed open for 107 years before COVID shut them tight.
After months of waiting, Executive Chef Sandy Ingber will be allowed to fill up to 25% of his seats.
"It's a shot in the dark, but we're willing to take the chance," Ingber said. "We've sent out a 25,000 email blast last week. This week we already have 90 reservations, which is what we do in an hour."
Outdoor dining has been out of the question in the basement of Grand Central.
For months they've loaded up on the supplies they need, from contactless pay systems to a lot of sanitizer.
As excited as they are to open Oyster Bar tomorrow, they're still in pretty deep water, because they don't break even until they hit 75% capacity, and tomorrow they'll be blocked at 25.
But even as restaurateurs try to see the bright side of Wednesday's milestone, the sense of foreboding is practically crippling.
"A cluster today can be community spread tomorrow," New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.
On Tuesday, the citywide positivity rate inched past 3%, fueled by spikes in Hasidic communities across Brooklyn.
Volunteers and city workers pleaded with people to wear masks, and the mayor threated to fine those who refuse.
So much rides on the compliance of just a few neighborhoods.
"Having to close again ... and I pray every day that I don't have to do that," Ingber said.
Cuomo said that indoor dining will require temperature checks, one party of each group must leave contact information for contact tracers, no bar service, masks must be worn unless seated at a table to eat, tables must be six feet apart, and restaurants must close by midnight.
New Yorkers are being asked to call or text a task force anonymously if they see an establishment breaking the rules and having more than 25% occupancy.
People can call 833-208-4160 to make a report or text VIOLATION to 855-904-5036.
Every restaurant is required to post the 25% occupancy and also the text number to the task force.
"We are continuing New York City's economic recovery by bringing back indoor dining. Working with the state and public health officials, we've achieved a plan that puts health and safety first by including strict capacity limits, a close monitoring of citywide positive testing rates and a coordinated inspection regimen," Mayor Bill de Blasio said. "Science will guide our decision-making as we continue to monitor progress and health care indicators over the next three weeks to ensure a safe reopening. This may not look like the indoor dining that we all know and love, but it is progress for restaurant workers and all New Yorkers."
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