Last call at 10 p.m. coming at New York restaurants and bars as COVID-19 rates increase

FILE PHOTO: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks during a daily briefing following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Manhattan in New York City, New York, U.S., July 13, 2020.
REUTERS/Mike Segar

By Mark Hallum

Governor Andrew Cuomo will be ordering bars and restaurants to close at 10 p.m. as COVID-19 begins its predictable resurgence with winter setting in.

Scheduled to be enforced starting on Nov. 13, the Cuomo administration will allow take out after the hour at the business’s discretion, but these establishments – alongside gyms – will have to slow things down under the new state mandate.

“That’s one of the main spreaders of COVID. In theory, indoor dining and outdoor dining, you’re at a table, you only take down the mask to eat or drink, but in that setting it’s very hard to police, it’s very hard for people to maintain the discipline of there eating and drinking and chatting, having a good time while keeping a mask on,” Cuomo said. “Bars and restaurants are one of the identified spreaders, so they will close at ten o’clock.”

This measure was prompted in part by action from New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy in an attempt to waylay people crossing the Hudson or the Bayonne Bridge to indulge in some nightlife.

Parties in surrounding states have capped parties in residences at no more than ten people and Cuomo, in order to discourage interstate travel, will keep the same policy.

“This is one of the three great spreaders as identified by our contact tracers so the states around us have done this, we’re going to do it also,” Cuomo said. “I don’t want people in Connecticut saying, ‘well, we can’t meet at my house so let’s go meet at your house in New York.’ We don’t want the traffic being steered.”

The state’s infection rate including micro-cluster zones is at 2.9% while Connecticut has a surge of 10%. The entire nation saw record spread on Tuesday. According to Cuomo, the areas in New York seeing the highest amount of spread are bordering with New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania.

“At the time of the announcement, restaurants have not been provided important details by the State or City about the new restrictions on their businesses,” Andrew Rigie, executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance said. “They don’t know if the restrictions apply to indoor and outdoor dining, and if customers need to leave the restaurant by 10:00pm or if they can finish their meals, which is creating more confusion, so we hope that information is released immediately. These new restrictions should be publicly justified with contact tracing data because they will make it even more difficult for these small businesses to survive. We demand that our elected leaders provide financial support to our city’s restaurants and bars before they permanently shutter and put tens of thousands of New Yorkers out of work.”

While Cuomo admitted to reporters Wednesday that this would most certainly equal additional hardship for the hospitality industry, light at the end of the tunnel could come in the form of Pfizer’s promising vaccine at shows up to 90% efficacy. The Federal Drug Administration is expected to be fast-tracking the concoction in late November.

“Today’s news is a huge blow to the restaurant industry that is desperately trying to stay afloat,” Melissa Fleischut, president of the New York State Restaurant Association said. “Our members have put in place procedures and protocols to mitigate the spread, and we’ll continue to do so to ensure the safety of our employees and patrons. We understand the logic behind micro-cluster restrictions, but at this time we have concerns about blanket statewide restrictions like this.”

Meanwhile, city and state officials are holding their breath for a plan to deploy the vaccine across American public with Cuomo emphasizing the extreme breadth the program will require.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Tuesday that he hopes to see this plan come forth from the Biden-Harris Transition team as a top priority while the Trump administration has also made no such announcements.

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