NEW YORK — Monday was supposed to mark the end of a midnight curfew on outdoor dining across New York state.
That was not the case, however, for many New York City restaurants that only started outdoor dining when the coronavirus pandemic began.
What You Need To Know
- State on Monday lifted 12 a.m. curfew for outdoor dining areas
- But NYC still has a regulation for participants in its “Open Restaurants” program that keeps the curfew at midnight
- Most restaurants only have outdoor dining areas as a result of the city’s “Open Restaurants” program
- Two Astoria businesses said they planned to keep their current operations as is because they feel they can’t implement the state’s requirements that customers prove their vaccination status
New York City restaurants that only gained outdoor dining by joining the city’s “Open Restaurants” program still have to abide by a city curfew.
According the city Department of Transportation website on the program, participants can only be open on Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to midnight and on Sunday from 10 a.m. to midnight.
NY1 spoke to several restaurant owners in Astoria that were aware of the discrepancy.
During an appearance on NY1’s “Inside City Hall,” on Monday night, Mayor Bill de Blasio didn’t know whether the city regulations conflicted with those from the state.
“I want to be careful, if there's a nuisance I don't know about. My understanding is it’s across the board,” the mayor said about the state curfew being lifted on Monday.
One restaurant owner who spoke with NY1 didn't seem surprised that even top officials were unclear about the rules. She said officials have made decisions throughout the pandemic that they claimed would help businesses like her’s, but, in her opinion, have only complicated things further.
“I think that the people who are making all the decisions are really hoping and believing that they are making a difference,” said Katherine Fuchs, the owner of Thirsty Koala in Astoria. “There is a disconnect.”
In fact, as even more state restrictions are lifted this week, she’s planning on keeping her operation just as it is.
“Our entire staff is vaccinated, but we’re still going to wear masks,” Fuchs said. “We’re going to require that guests, when they leave their table, need to wear masks.”
In fact, she plans to stay the course on Wednesday, when the state plans to lift occupancy restrictions in restaurants and give businesses the option of serving customers based on their vaccination status.
Rob Quinlin, the manager of Pomeroy across the street, agreed. He questioned how they’d even be able to ensure someone is vaccinated.
“I think that's intrusive for a business owner to ask someone, ‘Are you vaccinated?’” Quinlin said. “That’s getting into their personal life and I was kind of raised in business, that you don’t do that.”
There’s one more state and city conflict that restaurant owners want addressed.
They’re pleased that the city has committed to making the “Open Restaurants” program permanent, but said that there’s currently no guarantee the state will continue to allow them to serve alcohol outside down the road. They want Albany to pass legislation that would change that.
“Now that New York City is making outdoor dining permanent, we need the state legislature to pass this law so that, not just myself, but so many other restaurants in this state, can sell alcohol to customers who eat in our outdoor establishment,” said Melba Wilson, the owner of Melba’s, which is located in Harlem. “Outdoor dining is not going to help my small business or any other small business if we are not able to sell and serve a glass of wine outdoors.”
NY1 asked City Hall for clarity on whether the city’s current curfew for outdoor dining would continue amid the state lifting the restriction. A spokesman said that they were “seeking clarity from the state.”
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