Business leaders react to ending indoor dining
by Benjamin Fang
Dec 16, 2020 | 5957 views | 0 0 comments | 406 406 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Leaders of New York City’s business community, including the five chambers of commerce, warn that the shutdown of indoor dining in the city will be catastrophic for restaurants.

On Monday, Governor Andrew Cuomo suspended indoor dining in the Big Apple after the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) updated its guidance to say that exposure at non-essential indoor settings and crowded outdoor settings pose a “preventable risk.”

According to the governor’s office, indoor venues where distancing is not maintained and consistent use of face masks is not possible have been identified as high-risk scenarios. The move comes in light of New York City’s climbing COVID-19 positivity rates and daily hospitalization admissions.

Cuomo will re-evaluate based on updated data in the coming weeks, and has extended the state’s moratorium on commercial evictions. He is also calling on Congress to include support for bars and restaurants in the next stimulus package.

“We’re calibrating the risk level of the economic activity to ensure we are respecting public health, while limiting economic disruption to the extent possible,” Cuomo said on Friday. “This pandemic has required us to stay nimble from the very beginning, and we will continue to follow the data to make smart, informed decisions.”

Andrew Rigie, executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance, responded in a statement that the governor’s decision to shut down indoor dining is “at odds” with the state’s own data. He noted that the restriction begins even as small businesses struggling to survive are receiving no economic support.

“It will be the last straw for countless more restaurants and jobs,” he said.

Rigie called on the federal government to pass the RESTAURANTS Act, which would create a $120 billion restaurant stabilization grant fund to help bars and restaurants impacted by the pandemic.

The funds could be used to cover payroll, benefits, mortgage, rent, utilities, maintenance, supplies and other expenses.

He also wants state government to extend and strengthen the eviction moratorium through 2021, and enhance unemployment benefits for workers who lose their jobs due to the shutdown.

As for city officials, Rigie called for permanently capping third-party delivery fees and requiring those companies to give restaurants ownership of their customer data.

“Closing indoor dining in New York City will severely jeopardize the survival of countless small businesses and jobs,” he said, “and it’s more important than ever that all levels of government pass critical support to help save the industry.”

The Five Borough Chamber of Commerce Alliance, meanwhile, said in a statement that although the governor’s announcement was a “difficult decision” given the increase in COVID-19 positivity and hospitalizations, the restriction could not have come at a worse time for restaurants in New York City.

“The shutdown marks a completely different economic climate than restaurants faced at the onset of the pandemic, where many were in better financial position and supported by federal stimulus funding,” the statement read. “We now fear that thousands of small businesses will be forced to permanently close their doors and lay off employees, which will have an irreversible impact on the city’s economic recovery and social fabric.”

Last Friday at his daily briefing, Mayor Bill de Blasio said he feels “tremendous empathy” for restaurant owners, and said he wants mom-and-pop businesses to survive. But he said the “numbers don’t lie” and that he supports the governor’s restrictions.

“We have to fight it back to save lives and we have to fight it back to start our recovery,” he said. “I feel for them, but I also know in my heart we have to stop the spread of this virus quickly to be able to turn this situation around.”
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