April 28, 2021 By Allie Griffin
A slew of state-imposed COVID-19 restrictions on bars and restaurants will be lifted next month.
Previous executive orders that Governor Andrew Cuomo imposed on the businesses at the height of the pandemic — such as curfews, the required food with alcohol purchase rule, and the suspension of bar service — will end in the coming weeks.
The rollback of the pandemic-age regulations comes as the number of new COVID-19 cases is declining citywide. Some of the regulations are being lifted by the state legislature, while others are being dropped by Cuomo himself.
For instance, the state legislature voted Wednesday to repeal Cuomo’s order that requires bars and restaurants to sell food with all alcoholic drink orders. Meanwhile, Cuomo announced today that businesses will be able to serve customers at bars again beginning May 3.
Cuomo also said that he will lift the midnight curfew on outdoor dining on May 17 and the midnight curfew on indoor dining on May 31.
The announcements come as more New Yorkers get vaccinated and the COVID-19 positivity rate continues to decline. The citywide positivity rate has been below 4 percent for four days in a row, according to city data.
“Everything we’ve been doing is working – all the arrows are pointing in the right direction and now we’re able to increase economic activity even more,” Cuomo said in a statement. “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.”
State Sen. Michael Gianaris said the legislature will continue to review any executive orders executed by Cuomo earlier in the pandemic and decide if they too should be repealed.
“When public health guidelines were first put in place, many were needed to save lives and stop the spread of covid-19,” Gianaris said in a statement. “Now as we see the light at the end of the tunnel and success in vaccinating more and more people, we need to start taking action to get our small business economy back on track.”
He said the repeal of the order, which prompted many bars to sell items like “Cuomo chips” to drinking customers, will lessen the pandemic burden on small businesses.
“I am pleased to work with the great small businesses of western Queens to provide this type of much-needed relief,” Gianaris said.
Local Queens business owners and leaders praised the reversal of the ‘food with alcohol’ purchase rule.“Restaurants and small businesses have been suffering from so many rules related to the COVID situation,” said Roseann McSorely, the owner of Katch Astoria. “It’s great that this one has been lifted – we have lost so many customers who sometimes just want to come out for a drink and can’t do so.”
Many restaurant industry leaders said the rule was unnecessary and inconsequential on the fight against COVID-19.
“Our restaurants and bars have worked hard to maintain compliance with changing mandates throughout the pandemic and to provide essential services to our communities,” Jaime-Faye Bean, Executive Director of Sunnyside Shines said. “But the ‘food with alcohol’ rule was especially arbitrary and disconnected from our understanding of COVID spread and risks.”
Bean said she was happy to see it go and thanked the legislators for their effort to repeal it.