As New York City enters phase two of its reopening, more tables are being put on sidewalks and the restaurant industry is, sort of, coming back. Nearly 3,200 restaurants qualified and are reopening for outdoor dining, reporter Katie Honan notes Mayor Bill de Blasio as saying, including Melba’s in Harlem and Le Crocodile in Williamsburg. Though for others, the reopening already unofficially happened. Restaurants around the city had leapfrogged guidelines during phase one, with businesses from the West Village to Sheepshead Bay opening up for outdoor dining earlier in June.
On Sunday, the Department of Health released a pair of guidelines with advice on, respectively, getting together and dining out safely. In the latter document, it’s noted that restaurants will screen staff for the coronavirus before shifts, make sure staff wear a face covering, keep tables six feet apart, promote physical distancing where lines may form, have hand sanitizer where there’s customer interaction, and increase cleaning of surfaces like faucets and counters.
Customers themselves are advised to limit their exposure by making reservations in advance and looking at menus online, practice social distancing and hand hygiene; to also wear coverings; and stay home if they are either sick or vulnerable to the coronavirus. The guidelines don’t account for how these rules will be enforced across the city, and there is the issue of whether customers and business owners actually comply. This seems like a legitimate concern, given recent scenes of crowds of maskless people outside bars, and the early exit from phase one by some operators. But the city apparently doesn’t have a plan for enforcement, as de Blasio says this is a plan based on “trust” and citizens reporting violations. (If you see something, say something?)
But the guidelines will, hopefully, help owners and workers who have looked for specific guidance on how to navigate operating and working in these businesses during a pandemic. While reopening for outdoor dining will certainly provide some relief for the industry, concerns persist about who is being served. At the same time as many restaurants are reopening for outdoor dining, offices are able to reopen — but many companies are keeping their workers home for now.