New York City restaurants that have been staying afloat with outdoor patios and takeout service this summer may be forced to close when it turns cold this fall as local officials struggle to enforce the state's orders to curb the coronavirus, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned Wednesday.
Unlike other parts of the state, restaurants and bars in the Big Apple have not been allowed to reopen indoor dining services. Some have been able to operate with expanded outdoor patios that Cuomo has said are safer.
"We have a much, a much bigger problem in New York City today than any of the surrounding suburbs with a lack of compliance," Cuomo told reporters on a conference call when asked why the state allows indoor dining in other regions and not New York City.
While every region of New York is in the final phase of reopening, New York City has been barred from reopening many indoor activities as Covid-19 spread across the country. Cuomo has recently laid the groundwork for some indoor businesses to return in the coming weeks with limited capacity, including gyms and museums, but has yet to make a decision on restaurants and bars.
The state has cracked down on many restaurants and bars for violating the governor's orders on operating with safety precautions to prevent the spread of the virus. New York has suspended the liquor licenses of nearly 150 bars for violating the orders, according to a press release Monday.
Other restaurants have received citations, many in the New York City area, and are subject to fines up to $10,000 per violation.
"I understand the inconvenience that many businesses are dealing with going through this. And I understand many businesses are under economic hardship and they feel that if they can't get back to full operating that they are going to have issues," Cuomo said on the call.
However, he indicated that a decision could come later as the weather turns cold and added that "in this environment, two weeks is what a year used to be. Something changes every two weeks."
The infection rate across New York has remained low over the last 12 consecutive days. The so-called positivity rate, or the percentage of total tests that are positive, below 1%, an indication that the virus is under control in the area.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio reported earlier Wednesday that the city recorded its lowest daily infection rate to date at 0.24%. De Blasio has previously said that despite Cuomo's recent orders, the city's gyms won't reopen in August as it focuses its resources on inspecting schools due to reopen.
"We're going to work through how to balance that, but there's no question in my mind, most important thing we can do with our health inspectors is focused on child-care centers in schools," de Blasio said at a press briefing Tuesday.