Indoor dining is returning to New York City on Sept. 30 as the battered industry could face even more headwinds as the winter season approaches.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday announced the move, which will limit restaurants to 25% of their normal capacity. Temperature checks must be taken at the door, face masks must be worn except when eating and information gathered for contact tracing purposes.
Whether this is enough to save an industry facing a sharp decline remains to be seen.
Restaurants outside of New York City have been allowed to operate both outdoors and indoors with similar social distancing and sanitizing measures in place. But industry groups in surveys have said many restaurants may never return while others are facing steep declines in revenue.
Hospitality and tourism, two mainstay sectors of the New York City economy, have been hit especially hard with layoffs amid the pandemic-induced recession.
The announcement was made after the Independent Restaurant Owners Association Rescue filed a lawsuit. Republican congressional candidate Nicole Malliotakis in a statement said that lawsuit will move forward.
"While we're happy the city and state have acknowledged the plight of the restaurant industry, it's not enough," she said. "We will continue to proceed with the lawsuit until New York City is granted the 50% capacity like every other municipality in New York State."
The Empire State Restaurant & Tavern Association in a statement called the move to indoor dining "welcomes news" for business owners, but added federal help is needed for the sector in order to keep jobs in place.
Overall, New York's coronavirus infection rate remains stable: For the last 33 days it has remained below 1%. Cuomo on Wednesday said the infection rate stood at 0.9%, based on the results of 63,230 tests in the last day. Three people have died of COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, while there are 463 people who have been hospitalized.
"New York State's infection rate has been under 1 percent for 33 straight days, which is great news and a credit to New Yorkers and what they're doing," Cuomo said.
"And that is with more testing than any other state. If you want to see something interesting, look at how many tests different states are taking. If you don't do many tests, you won't find many cases and the number of cases will drop. But that is false comfort. When we say this is how many cases we have, that's accurate because we're testing more than anyone else."