New York City restaurants can once again serve customers indoors starting Feb. 14.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced in a press conference on Friday that restaurants in New York City "can reopen indoor dining at 25% on Valentine's Day."
"25% is better than zero," he said. "If the numbers continue to get better, then we will continue to increase that."
He said that "the restaurants want a period of time" to prepare for reopening in order to hire back staff, plan menus, get orders in, etc.
"You could make a reservation now or plan dinner -- you propose on Valentine's Day -- you have the wedding ceremony up to 150 people," he said as he continued to unveil his plans for reopening.
The news came on the 335th day of the ongoing pandemic as positive cases hit the lowest point since Dec. 11.
The hospitality industry, hard hit amid the pandemic, has adapted to ever-changing rules and restrictions statewide from limited indoor dining capacity to outdoor dining rules as well as implementing new takeout and delivery options.
Andrew Rigie, executive director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance, weighed in Friday hailing the announcement, but pushed for equitable openings compared to the rest of the state.
"It's good news that Governor Cuomo heard the voice of New York City's struggling restaurant industry and is lifting the ban on indoor dining, similar to other major cities that reopened in recent weeks," he told ABC News in a statement. "However, restaurants are broken hearted that they need to wait two weeks until Valentine's Day to open at only 25% occupancy in the city, while permitting 50% occupancy in dining rooms around the rest of the state where infections and hospitalization rates from COVID-19 are higher."
Rigie, who has been an advocate for thousands of restaurant and nightlife establishments throughout the pandemic, added that "restaurants in the city are ready to safely open now."
"Unfortunately, once again the state's standards are being applied inequitably in the five boroughs without a transparent and data-driven system for further reopening the city's restaurant economy," he said. "These actions raise legal and moral concerns and extend unique economic challenges on the city's battered restaurants and bars, which shed more than 140,000 jobs over the past year due to the pandemic and related restrictions."
Timeline of NYC Dining During the Pandemic
- Mid-March 2020: Restaurants start to shut their doors as cases climb.
- March 12, 2020: Restaurants are required to reduce capacity by 50%.
- March 16, 2020: Gov. Cuomo shuts down indoor dining, limiting restaurants to delivery and takeout.
- March 17, 2020: Restaurants are allowed to sell alcohol for delivery and takeout.
- May 28, 2020: New York's city council introduces a bill to expand outdoor dining.
- June 4, 2020: Mayor Bill de Blasio announces full plans for outdoor dining.
- June 22, 2020: Outdoor dining officially begins at restaurants around the city.
- July 1, 2020: Indoor dining is postponed until further notice.
- July 16, 2020: Three-strike policy implemented for bars and restaurants with violations resulting in loss of an establishment's liquor license.
- July 27, 2020: New York City council member pushes to make outdoor dining, restaurant relief measures permanent.
- Aug. 28, 2020: New York City restaurants file $2 billion lawsuit amid growing calls for indoor dining plans.
- Sept. 9, 2020: Gov. Cuomo announces plan for restaurants to resume indoor dining at 25% capacity.
- Sept. 25, 2020: Mayor de Blasio makes outdoor dining permanent.
- Oct. 16, 2020: Restaurants are allowed to add a 10% dining surcharge amid the pandemic.
- Nov. 13, 2020: A 10 p.m. curfew is set for all bars and restaurants in New York state.
- Dec. 11, 2020: Gov. Cuomo reinstates an indoor dining ban with no timeframe for return.
- Jan. 29, 2020: Indoor dining is set to resume Feb. 14 at 25% capacity with COVID-19 safety measures.