NEW YORK – A ban on indoor dining at New York City restaurants went into effect on December 14 as officials try to slow the resurgence of the coronavirus.
The clampdown, announced last week by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, is a severe blow to a struggling industry that has made the city a culinary capital. New York City is home to roughly 24,000 restaurants, and owners warned of layoffs and closures if they are limited to takeout orders and outdoor dining this winter.
Just last week, the 21 Club in midtown Manhattan, a favorite of the power elite for almost a century, announced it was closing indefinitely due to the pandemic.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday he sympathized with restaurant owners, but noted the rising number of cases and hospitalizations. More than 1,700 patients were hospitalized in the city this weekend with COVID-19 infections, almost triple the number a month ago.
"Unfortunately, with restaurants, they're gathering indoors and they're gathering without face coverings on because you're eating and drinking. They are particularly sensitive," de Blasio said on CNN. "Unfortunately, this is just one of a number of steps that I think are going to be needed. There's going to be more restrictions after this."
Cuomo had said he was trying to avoid a worst-case scenario with overwhelmed hospitals forcing a ban on both indoor and outdoor dining.
The owner of the Van Dam Diner, Konstantinos Manoloukos, told The National Herald, "They should not have done this to us again. It is not possible for us to keep paying the price. We in the food service industry had specific rules for customer safety, which we complied with, in a greater percentage than the supermarkets, where no measures are observed. Why do they close us down and consider us dangerous when the tables are placed at safe distances?"
"Outdoor dining do not help when it is cold. In the summer we tolerated it because the weather conditions allowed it. At the moment, apart from the State, the season is also against us," Manoloukos pointed out.
Restaurant industry groups are already preparing for protests starting this week, but there is dissatisfaction in the business community over the lack of cooperation, which might help their cause. Manoulokos invites his Greek-American colleagues to organize and join him in protest against the indoor dining ban.
"Through The National Herald, I want to invite my colleagues to contact me and call me at 646-361-5088, in order to discuss this problem that concerns us. This is not just our problem. If our industry disappears from New York, it will have consequences for everyone. Also, we support the federations and the Greek associations as much as anyone," concluded Manoloukos.
At the same time, negotiations have stalled on a new COVID aid package from the federal government.
(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)