Just hours after Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that limited indoor dining would return to the city in three weeks, the owners of Bel-Aire Diner on Wednesday were hard at work preparing the booths inside the restaurant.
For months, the future of the city’s restaurants have been in limbo.
Now, with a firm target date for it’s return, restaurant owners can breathe a little easier.
“It definitely does give us a little bit of piece of mind and it kind of sets up a timeline, because what’s going to happen when it’s snowing out?” said Kal Dellaportas, the co-owner of Bel-Aire Diner in Astoria.
Restaurant owners, workers, and advocates have fought hard for weeks to get the governor on board with a plan to bring back indoor dining before colder weather arrives. They can now reopen indoors at 25 percent capacity, though that number could grow to 50 percent by November should all go well, according to Governor Cuomo.
Restaurants will have to comply with a number of other restrictions, such as collecting contact information from one person per party, setting tables six feet apart (no bar seating) and closing by midnight.
Restaurant owners who spoke with NY1 on Wednesday said outdoor dining worked for the most part during the summer. They also said that it would not work once the weather got colder. Outdoor seating, according to owners, has and will continue to keep them at the mercy of Mother Nature.
They maintain that the addition of indoor dining will change that.
“It’s no longer strictly weather-permitting. There have been times we had a couple bad storms and we weren’t supposed to open, we were supposed to close up shop for the day. Nobody really wants to sit outside,“ said Rebecca Freehill, the manager at Oliver’s in Astoria.
While the plan to bring back indoor dining may require additional work on behalf of restaurant owners, they overwhelmingly celebrated the decision.
“We’re happy to be back in business a little bit, at least this 25 percent. That is a good sign for us to have better business,” said Julian Medina, the chef and owner of El Fish Shack.
However, some owners said the return of indoor dining may not be enough to save some businesses.
“We’re still concerned, though, because we’re all financially at risk because we lost three months of revenue from March until the middle of June. So we’re trying to catch up with that. We’re just breaking even or less now,” said Roseann McSorely, the owner of Katch Astoria.
Cuomo did warn restaurant owners that if coronavirus cases start to climb and are linked to opening indoor dining service, he would remove the option.