The doors at the Bel Aire Diner in Astoria have been open all year, but starting Wednesday you can walk through them unmasked, if you’re fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Plus, restaurants like Bel Aire can officially operate at 100% capacity, but with limits.
“Super excited, super excited. Can’t wait to be open again at full capacity,” said manager Chris Pappas.
The state is following CDC guidelines allowing fully vaccinated people to be indoors without a mask, but private businesses can choose whether or not to continue requiring it.
At restaurants, despite being allowed to open at full capacity, they must continue to keep customers at least six feet apart, or put up barriers in between tables.
Diners can show proof of vaccination or recent negative tests, then the six feet rule doesn't apply.
It’s all good news to Papas, who said employees will continue to wear masks to make diners feel comfortable, but there’s some confusion over how to enforce the new guidelines.
“They have the app now. You can bring your card in if you like, but for the most part we’re gonna try to do our best with what we’re given and ask that everyone’s patient and works together in order for this to flow properly and hopefully can look at this in the past and not have to deal with it again,” he said.
As for early morning customers, some were elated to hear the news.
“I don’t think it will be a challenge at all and the reason why is, as long as everybody’s honest, there’s no reason for the system to fail,” said Verseti, a New York-based performer. “We just gotta make sure we continue to be safe and it’s a great thing for the businesses. Unfortunately, many businesses had to close because of the pandemic and this is gonna be something that increases our economy, helps a lot of businesses and I’m just really happy for NYC.”
Some, though, aren’t quite there yet.
“I think I’ll still wear my mask for a while till I feel more comfortable that everyone who’s coming in here is not wearing a mask,” said Kathy Litschel, adding, “Masks] just become a part of my daily attire.”
Another choice restaurants have is to make vaccinated and unvaccinated sections indoors, and there will likely be some growing pains figuring it all out.
The next restriction being lifted is the indoor dining curfew, which will end May 31.