Pressure builds to allow indoor dining in New York

Pressure is mounting on state and local officials to allow restaurants in New York to reopen for indoor dining, but Governor Andrew Cuomo is not budging, citing fears it could fuel the coronavirus crisis.

The city — once the epicenter of the virus outbreak in the United States — has seen steadily declining case numbers for weeks, prompting an increasingly loud campaign for restaurants to be given the green light to serve patrons inside.

“New York City must stop the Shutdown now. The Governor & Mayor are destroying the place!” US President Donald Trump tweeted on Tuesday.

Since June 22, businesses serving food in New York have been allowed to serve customers outside.

City officials granted hundreds of permits so restaurants could create or increase their outdoor space.

“It’s time to allow indoor dining in New York City with reduced capacity,” city council speaker Corey Johnson said, calling it a “crucial” decision for restaurant owners.

According to a New York Times study, based on data from crowdsourced review site Yelp, nearly 900 restaurants have closed their doors since the start of the pandemic.

Nearly two-thirds of all restaurants still operating in the state say they will have to shut down by year’s end if they don’t get federal aid, according to a poll published last week.

On Tuesday, several restaurant owners filed suit seeking the right to reopen for indoor dining.

The legal action has the backing of Republican state lawmaker Nicole Malliotakis, who says the lockdown measures are discriminating against city business owners “for no reason.”

All other counties in New York state lifted curbs on indoor dining several weeks ago.

On Tuesday, Cuomo ruled out indoor dining in the city in the short term, saying it would be “negligent and reckless” to allow it, “knowing that compliance is going to be a problem, and knowing that you have no enforcement mechanism.”

Cuomo, who is a Democrat, said there are about 10,000 restaurants that would be affected by an eventual reopening.

He said they will ultimately have to limit indoor capacity to a fraction of what it was before the pandemic. (AFP)