New York City Indoor Dining Returns This Friday Instead of Valentine’s Day

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Restaurants in New York City can now reopen indoor dining at a reduced capacity on Friday, Feb. 12, to give them time to prepare for an expected rush on Valentine’s Day, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Monday.

Indoor dining was originally slated to return at a 25 percent capacity on Valentine’s Day on Feb. 14, but Cuomo decided to push up the date after hearing from the restaurant industry that they needed time to bring back staff and gather supplies ahead of the holiday.

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“That’s a responsible request,” Cuomo said at a press conference. “So we’re starting indoor dining on Friday … they’ll be ready for that weekend and Valentine’s Day.”

Restaurants will need to follow rules set by the state in September to reopen, which include checking customers’ temperatures at the door and requiring at least one member of a dining party to leave contact information in case contact tracing is necessary.

The state first banned indoor dining in March as the coronavirus pandemic spread throughout the city and forced eateries to switch to takeout- or delivery-only models. 

Restaurants struggled to pay rent and more than 200,000 workers were laid off. Thousands of eateries are expected to shutter because of the pandemic.

The state allowed indoor dining to return at a reduced capacity on Sept. 30 as the number of positive COVID-19 infections slowed, but shut it down a second time on Dec. 14 as the city saw another surge of cases after Thanksgiving. 

Andrew Rigie, executive director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance trade group, praised Cuomo for listening to his pleas to give restaurants more time to reopen before Valentine’s Day.

“This will allow restaurants to generate much-needed revenue from the Valentine’s Day weekend business, much of which they would have lost because the holiday falls on a Sunday this year,” Rigie said in a statement. “The advanced opening and better health metrics are welcome news to the city’s decimated restaurant industry and to lovers alike.”

However, a number of restaurant owners have started to call on the state to increase the number of diners allowed inside once indoor dining returns.

A group of 74 restaurant owners around the city filed an emergency motion for a judge to allow eateries to reopen at half capacity, arguing that businesses can’t survive under the current 25 percent capacity, Eater New York reported.