NYC Hospitality Alliance Rebuts New York Times Article
As New York City’s battered restaurants prepare to reopen indoor dining at 25% occupancy, industry leaders, restaurant owners and workers ready to stop the bleeding of job losses and business closures across the city responded to The New York Times’ incomplete estimation of the situation and supported Governor Cuomo’s decision to reopen indoor dining under strict regulations on February 14.
In an article critical of the Governor’s policy announcement published on February 2 (“N.Y.C.’s Covid Metrics Are Dire. Cuomo Is Reopening Restaurants Anyway.”), the paper fails to account for several key metrics backing the safe return of highly regulated indoor dining in New York City.
The Times states that the infection rate is higher now than when the Governor closed indoor dining for the second time in New York City.
The chief contradiction not mentioned by the piece, however, is that while these numbers were rising, indoor dining had been closed in the city, demonstrating clearly that the virus spread cannot be attributed to restaurants. In fact, outside of the city limits where highly regulated indoor dining has been operating safely since June 2020, infections rates decreased for consecutive months, and the state's data shows 74% of virus spread comes from private residence living room exposure, and only 1.4% from restaurants, a major fact left out of the article.
As a matter of fact, forcing people from highly regulated restaurants into unregulated living rooms correlates directly with the rise in infection rates. Opening indoor dining in New York City, as with the rest of the State, is part of the solution, not part of the problem.
“Governor Cuomo put New York City restaurants, which are on the brink of survival, on the path to reopening indoor dining at 25% occupancy to help mitigate total economic disaster,” said Andrew Rigie, executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance. “Following the loss of 140,000 jobs over the past year due to the pandemic and related restrictions, and the science showing that highly regulated indoor dining hasn’t been the main source of infection, and now that restaurant workers are eligible for the vaccine, it’s critical that we move forward and support this vital industry.”
Another key point that receives little attention in the article is the extent of health and safety regulations that restaurant owners and workers are following to keep indoor dining safe for patrons.
The article also mentions C.D.C. warnings on indoor dining but neglects to detail how that does not apply to the highly restrictive indoor dining in New York City, which includes reduced capacity, socially distanced tables, a food requirement, no bar service, no standing, air circulation, masks and other safety protocols.
The eight-page list of health and safety regulations required for restaurants to operate indoor dining in the state is exhaustive, and the article discounts struggling restaurant owners who are undertaking great effort and expense to meet them.
Also, The Times reports New York City transmission and hospitalization data as a monolith to justify keeping indoor dining closed at restaurants citywide. But in reality, New York City is made up of five counties and hundreds of neighborhoods. Manhattan for example has some of the lowest numbers in the state, and restaurants there should not be punished or accountable for rising rates in neighborhoods miles and miles away.