BY: PHEOBE HORIBE
The COVID-19 infection rate in New York City has been consistently less than 1% for the last month, so Governor Cuomo has given the green light for reopening indoor restaurant seating with certain requirements in place. Starting September 30th, restaurants will be able to reopen indoor dining to patrons at 25% capacity. All diners will be required to complete a temperature check at the door and at least one member of the party must give contact information for tracing purposes. As usual, all diners will be required to wear masks while waiting to be seated.
How do we feel about this? I personally will continue to order my food to go, but I understand the necessity of opening things back up, even at a fraction of their usual capacity. Winter is coming and once it gets too cold outside for patrons to eat al fresco, restaurants’ ability to provide indoor seating may prove to be an invaluable lifeline.
Of course, it remains to be seen whether 1) people (other than me) are willing to eat indoors, even if it is allowed and 2) 25% capacity translates to a meaningful revenue. Sean Ricketts, the co-owner of a Theater District staple, Sardi’s, is still calculating whether reopening at this capacity is worth the costs. Sardi’s is smack in the heart of the Theater District and most certainly relies on Broadway shows for the vast majority of its business. (Even when Broadway is running, the iconic eatery is shuttered on Mondays, when most shows are dark.) Without the pre-theater dinner crowd, will institutions like Sardi’s even be able to fill 25% capacity? And if they can, will those patrons spend the same way people did before seeing a show?
This will be a test to see if indoor gatherings significantly bump the infection rate. If the rate stays steady after restaurants have been partially open for a bit, this could lead to more indoor businesses opening their doors, like movie theaters and (eventually) live theater. However, Gov Cuomo has made it very clear that if this puts a spike in the infection rate, then he will gladly shut things down again.
We all miss New York City and I know we hate seeing some of our favorite businesses struggle, which is why we owe it to each other to be mindful as the city that never sleeps starts to wake up. Be smart, wash your hands, stay home if you feel sick, and if you miss Broadway, join us at a Mixer!