Renewing restrictions on indoor dining in New York City amid surging coronavirus infections could deal a crippling financial blow to restaurants and their workers and should come with financial support, an industry group said Friday.
The NYC Hospitality Alliance made the plea as Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday that he expected the state to impose restrictions in the city around the first week of December that would limit restaurants to outdoor dining.
The alliance had not seen any contact tracing data showing that indoor dining, which resumed this fall under tight restrictions, is causing recent infections, executive director Andrew Rigie said.
“(A)nd thus struggling small business owners and their employees should not be the left holding the bag as a default reaction without being justly compensated,” Rigie said in a statement.
He called for the city, state and federal governments to provide financial support for business owners and workers.
"We are going into the holidays and we are going to lay off tens of thousands and shutter businesses? We need to support them," Rigie said.
Restaurants were among the hardest-hit businesses when New York City emerged as a pandemic hot spot in March. Nearly 150,000 industry employees are out of work, and another shutdown could result in 90,000 New Yorkers possibly losing their jobs again, Rigie said.
Statewide, the leisure and hospitality industry was down nearly 330,000 jobs compared with last October. The state’s unemployment rate was 9.6 percent in October, and the city’s was 13.2 percent.
New York City restauranteur Danny Meyer made the surprise decision Friday to close his restaurants for both indoor and outdoor service, citing the recent uptick in coronavirus cases. Those closing for indoor service include Union Square Cafe, Gramercy Tavern and Blue Smoke; all will continue to offer pickup and delivery.
"The minute winter weather is behind us and the environment returns to feeling safe, we will eagerly return to on-site dining -- first on our sidewalks, and eventually in our dining rooms," Meyer said in a press release.
De Blasio, speaking on WNYC, said restrictions are needed before the situation worsens.
“When you think about the restaurants, when you think about the gyms right now, thank God they have not been a major nexus of the problem,” he said. “But the rate things are going, unfortunately, they well could be.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday that New York City as a whole has not reached 3 percent positive tests on a seven-day rolling average — his main metric for placing areas of the state into orange zones where schools, indoor dining and risky nonessential businesses like gyms are shuttered.
But he said it’s possible his administration could designate communities like Staten Island as an orange zone.
Staten Island has reported at least 3 percent of tests coming up positive on a seven-day rolling average since Nov. 8.
New York reported 5,468 new positives as of Thursday — the highest in a single day since 5,902 on April 25.
The state has averaged 4,835 new positives and nearly 25 new cases per 100,000 residents over the past seven days. Those figures have doubled in two weeks.
New York has reported an average of 2.9 percent tests coming up positive over the past seven days, while hospitals have averaged 2,080 patients. Both figures are up 70 percent from two weeks ago.
Cuomo stressed that New York is doing more testing than many other states, and that hospitalizations are far below the April peak of over 18,000 COVID-19 patients at once.