New York City can reopen indoor restaurant dining at 25 percent capacity Friday, two days earlier than previously announced, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday — but critics still blasted the move as too measly.
The last time the Big Apple’s pandemic-devastated eateries did indoor business was in mid-December.
“They have made the point that they’d like to open a couple of days earlier so they can be ready for Valentine’s Day, get the staff oriented, get supplies into the restaurants, and that’s a reasonable request,’’ Cuomo said of the restaurants at a press briefing. “So, we’ll start indoor dining on Friday at 25 percent.”
But already-strapped city restaurant owners and their supporters have ripped the governor over the notion that 25 percent capacity would do anything to keep them afloat — saying they should at least be allowed 50 percent capacity. They also want the current closing curfew extended from 10 p.m. to midnight.
“The Super Bowl was just ridiculous,” said Stephen Elkins, owner of the Forest Hills Station House in Queens, to The Post on Monday.
“We have street seating, and we were not allowed to do that [because of the snow]. So we had a take-out business. We did a little bit of business — we sold wings and some hamburgers, and no one was really buying any alcohol. It was terrible.”
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State Sen. Joe Addabbo (D-Queens) said: “You can go upwards of 25 percent — you can probably go 50 or 75 percent. I’ve seen plenty of places do it safely.
“What many people don’t realize is 25 percent includes staff,’’ he said. “Now you’re talking about only maybe 15 patrons in some small places.”
Nineteen city council members fired off a bipartisan letter to the Democratic governor last week urging him to allow local restaurants to reopen indoor dining at 50 percent, as well as extend their closing hour.
“The fact of the matter is 25% capacity for indoor dining is simply not enough for restaurants to survive, and we are facing a different reality than we were in September when outdoor dining was thriving,’’ the letter said.
City Councilman Robert Holden (D-Queens), who signed the letter, Monday called Cuomo’s 25 percent edict “another small step in the right direction.
“But the science from our own New York state contact tracers tells us that we can handle 50 percent,” he told The Post. “We have some of the best restaurants in the world in New York City, and they are dying along with the dreams and life savings of many New Yorkers.”
Andrew Rigie, executive director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance who also signed the letter, praised Cuomo for at least allowing indoor dining again.
“This will allow restaurants to generate much needed revenue from the Valentine’s Day weekend business, much of which they would have lost because the holiday falls on a Sunday this year,’’ Rigie said.
Cuomo was asked by a reporter Monday about confusion from the state over coronavirus-related issues such as his flip-flop on early vaccines for restaurant workers.
He had said Feb. 1 that the state couldn’t afford to start making the staffers eligible because of a lack of supply — then reversed course a day later and said local governments could allow it if they had enough vaccines.
“What would you tell people who say the entire process is too confusing or that you’re ‘winging it?’ ” he was asked.
Cuomo shot back, “I would say then they don’t understand where we are.
“There is no plan or strategy that does not adjust to the virus and the circumstances and the virus changes,” the governor said. “And by the way, if you don’t change with the virus you lose.
“You are responding to variables outside your control. I don’t control what COVID does, I don’t control the infection rate, and I don’t control how many vaccinations we get, how many doses we get. I can just react to those changes,” Cuomo said.
“So there are a lot of questions. Yeah. Welcome to the war, my friend.’’
Additional reporting by Nolan Hicks