Restaurant owners are worried after Mayor Bill de Blasio hinted that indoor dining could be shut down again due to a surge in COVID-19 cases.
A shutdown would be another major blow to local eateries that have struggled to stay in business for most of the year.
“As far as indoor closures, of course it’s going to be devastating to the restaurant and bar industry,” said Alfred Urban, owner of Schnitzel Haus in Bay Ridge. “In my opinion, dining in a restaurant is just as safe if not safer than dining in your own home. I can’t speak for all restaurants and bars, but my fellow restaurateurs and Schnitzel Haus do everything we can to ensure that our patrons are safe.”
The City Council voted to allow restaurants to use portable electric and propane heaters for outdoor dining during cold weather, but Urban says it won’t be enough to save businesses.
“The outdoor seating is a complete joke,” he said. “With the specifications the city has imposed on building such structures, there is no way to heat them appropriately and keep people comfortable eating outside.”
Andrew Rigie, executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance, said regulated indoor dining has been working safely across New York State since June.
“While public health and safety must be paramount,” he said, “we have not seen contact tracing data indicating that highly regulated indoor dining causes the recent infections, and thus struggling small business owners and their employees should not be left holding the bag as a default reaction without being justly compensated.”
According to the NYC Hospitality Alliance, nearly 150,000 industry employees are still out of work and another shutdown could result in 90,000 New Yorkers losing their jobs again.