Coronavirus Update New York City: Outdoor dining bathroom guidance sparks criticism, confusion

Coronavirus update for NYC

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Friday, December 18, 2020
NYC's outdoor dining bathroom rules spark criticism, confusion
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Jim Dolan has more on the confusing outdoor dining bathroom guidance in New York City.

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday a factsheet the City sent out Thursday night stating that outdoor dining customers are not permitted to use a restaurant's indoor restrooms was "a mistake."

"Every one of us needs to use the restroom sometimes. There's no question that was a mistake. I don't know the nuances of how it happened. It's just stupid. Obviously, people have to use the bathroom. If you are patronizing the restaurant, you have a right to use the bathroom," de Blasio said.

The guidance was posted to Twitter by the mayor's legal counsel and clearly states "If my SLA-licensed establishment is offering outdoor dining, may I allow my customers to use the bathroom inside? No. Customers may not enter the inside of the establishment for any reason."

It immediately drew criticism from restaurants.

Andrew Rigie, the Executive Director of the NY Hospitality Alliance, said:

"The new guidance issued by NYS and shared by NYC on the indoor dining shutdown is another example of why restaurants and bars feel like government is purposely kicking them in the gut and then stopping on their hand when they're already down. This is absurd and must be fixed ASAP."

New York State makes the rules and sets the regulations related to coronavirus executive orders, not the City.

So it is unclear why the city sent out the factsheet.

Friday morning, the state liquor authority added a Q&A to its SLA guidance to clarify that customers could indeed use indoor bathrooms, so long as they wear face coverings and adhere to social distancing.

"This is common sense: of course outdoor dining patrons can use a restaurant's bathroom as long as they wear a face covering. That always has been and will continue to be allowed. Our goal here is simple - allowing restaurants and bars to continue operating in a safe manner that protects public health, and we will continue to support the industry through these trying times while keeping New Yorkers safe," NYS Liquor Authority Chairman Vincent Bradley said in a statement.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo weighed in during his briefing on COVID-19 Friday.

"There was never an intention to tell diners that you can't use a restroom. That was never the intention for the state regulation. I know the question came up. It was clarified as quickly as we heard about it," Cuomo said.

Melissa DeRosa, Gov. Cuomo's top aide, said the City issued the updated guidance without consulting the State or asking for clarification.

"That's been cleared up, that's been put out publicly that that was a mistake. Sometimes common sense has to rule the day," de Blasio said. "So to all New Yorkers who go to a restaurant, yes you can use the bathroom."

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