People make their way through local restaurants during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in New York City, March 11, 2021.
Eduardo Munoz | Reuters
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday that the state will lift dining curfews statewide and a ban on bar seating in New York City in a major milestone for the recovery of an industry hit hard by pandemic lockdowns.
Seating at bars will be allowed in New York City starting May 3, more than one year after restrictions first went into place at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
Once considered the pandemic hotspot in the country, New York City has been hit hard by shutdowns. Severe restrictions on bars and restaurants that began March of last year left the city suffering widespread unemployment, with more than 1,200 restaurants closing their doors permanently as of July 2020, according to the New York City comptroller.
The governor also announced that other food and beverage service curfews in the state will end, too. Outdoor dining curfews of 12 a.m. are set to end by May 17, and indoor dining curfews will expire May 31.
Curfews for all catered events will be lifted May 31 and 1 a.m. curfews for catered events where attendees have proof of vaccination status or a recent negative Covid test result will be lifted by May 17.
Catered events at residences can also resume beginning May 3 above the state’s residential gathering limit of 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors, as long as the events are staffed by a licensed caterer and strictly adhere to health and safety guidance, according to a press release from the governor’s office.
The announcements come as Covid numbers in New York state and New York City continue to decrease. The positivity rate is just over 2% statewide and just over 6% in the city. The vaccination campaign is also making progress, with 44% of New York state residents having received at least one dose of a Covid vaccine.
“We know the COVID positivity rate is a function of our behavior, and over the last year New Yorkers have remained disciplined and continued with the practices we know work to stop the spread of the virus,” Cuomo said. “Lifting these restrictions for restaurants, bars and catering companies will allow these businesses that have been devastated by the pandemic to begin to recover as we return to a new normal in a post-pandemic world.”
The governor also announced that gyms and fitness centers outside of New York City will increase from 33% to 50% capacity, casinos and gaming facilities will increase from 25% to 50% capacity, and offices will increase from 50% to 75% capacity.
“To be clear, we will only be able to maintain this progress if everyone gets the Covid vaccine,” Cuomo said.