New Yorkers craving for a sit-down restaurant meal during the coronavirus lockdown can begin frequenting their favorite upstate eateries again starting Thursday under outdoor dining rules announced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo Wednesday.
The outdoor dining only can take place in the seven upstate regions that have already entered Phase 2 of reopening — the Albany-Capital Region, Syracuse-Central New York, Rochester-Finger Lakes, Mohawk Valley, the North Country, Binghamton-Southern Tier and Buffalo-Western New York.
Outdoor dining is still weeks away in New York City, which will start the more limited Phase 1 of its post-pandemic reopening next Monday with an eye toward Phase 2 and possible outdoor dining by June 22.
Long Island and the Hudson Valley (Westchester, Rockland, Putnam, Duchess, Orange, Ulster and Sullivan counties) are still in Phase 1. Both could be in Phase 2 by next Wednesday, June 10, if their COVID-19 numbers hold.
Under the outdoor dining rules, tables must be spaced six feet apart and all staff must wear face masks.
Customers must also wear face coverings when not seated.
Eateries offering outdoor dining will have to abide by 13 pages of safety rules.
“COVID-19 is still a real threat and we’re still battling it. I know it’s not on the front pages today, but it is still in people and in society,” Cuomo said.
“But thanks to the people of New York and the nurses, doctors and essential workers, today we have the lowest number of hospitalizations ever and we have the lowest death toll ever. We are continuously evaluating activities that can be safely reopened, and today we are adding outdoor seating at restaurants to phase two.”
During the lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus, restaurants are barred from offering in-person dining service. They can only offer deliveries or pick-up.
Many restaurants decided to close.
Melissa Fleischut, president and CEO of the New York State Restaurant Association, applauded the approval of outdoor dining.
“The New York State Restaurant Association is grateful that the state has decided to allow outdoor dining in Phase Two. Governor Cuomo, his team and the Regional Control Rooms understand that the restaurant industry in New York is on the brink of collapse and this lifeline will undoubtedly be a huge help,” Fleischut said.
“We’re also promising to hold up our end of the bargain. NYSRA, our members and all restaurants in the state will follow stringent sanitation practices and social distancing to make our patrons feel comfortable and keep our diners and employees safe.”
In New York City, lawmakers are also pushing legislation to make it easier to expand outdoor dining to help revive the ailing restaurant industry. Eateries in the Big Apple currently must pay hefty permit fees to offer sidewalk dining and go through lengthy approval processes.