As the owner of the Sweet Spot Sports Bar in Queens, Harry Panagiotopoulos had a hand in designing the entire place.
One of his favorite features are its booths. Right now, however, he says they can’t be used how they were intended.
“We’re set up with these booths to accommodate 10 people. If I can only put four people, it defeats the purpose,” said Panagiotopoulos.
Current restrictions limit Sweet Spot to just four people per table, no matter the size. These are not rules that apply to all New York City restaurants, just those in what are called “yellow zones.”
They were part of a three-tier system that was initially intended to target areas with the highest transmission of COVID-19 cases.
There are still five "yellow zones" left in all of New York state — four in the five boroughs. Two are in the Bronx, one is in Manhattan, and one is in Queens.
Panagiotopoulos thinks everyone seems to have forgotten they exist except for the businesses within the boundaries. He thinks part of the problem is that Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been distracted.
“Because he has these two scandals pending, I think he put us on the back burner and completely forgot about us,” said Panagiotopoulos.
The 42-year-old Queens native said he hasn’t had anyone hassling him recently, but during the pandemic he grew accustomed to checking the regulations on the state’s website.
The last thing he wanted was to be found in violation of the rules and get a fine. He says he’s always followed the rules, and he just wants someone to tell him what’s going on.
The state’s website with guidelines on the "yellow zones" hasn’t been updated since January 27.
“As New York City’s economy continues to reopen, restaurants need clear metrics and details about when and how they’ll be able to increase occupancy and reduce other operating limitations and restrictions.” said Andrew Rigie, executive director of NYC Hospitality Alliance.
“We’re very, very strict with our log keeping, light temperature, taking all of that,” said Panagiotopoulos. “We have the SLA come in and check on us constantly. DOT, DOB, everybody comes in and checks on us, so we have to be as careful as possible. So, if we lose our liquor license, we can’t do business.”
He said that he’s tried to get an answer from his local elected officials, but to no avail. He says he just wants to be on the same playing field as the rest of New York City restaurants.
NY1 reached out to the governor’s office for comment, but they referred us to the state Department of Health.
As of 9:30 P.M. on Monday, a spokesperson acknowledged our request for comment, but did not respond with a statement on our story.