New York City shut down indoor dining. Restaurants worry they won't survive

As coronavirus cases climb, another round of restrictions is shutting down indoor dining once again. CNN's Brynn Gingras talks to New York City restaurant owners about the prospect of surviving and why they feel they are being unfairly targeted.

Posted: Dec 15, 2020 3:10 PM
Updated: Dec 15, 2020 3:10 PM

New York City shut down indoor dining for at least two weeks on Monday as Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations rise. Now, some restaurants fear they'll never open their doors again.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who discussed the ban during a Covid briefing on Friday, acknowledged that "there'll be an economic hardship," for restaurants. He said that the city's density has made indoor dining a particular risk, and pointed to recent guidance from the CDC that advised people to stay away from certain indoor spaces. "We're asking everyone to hold on," Cuomo said.

But for the city's restaurant operators, that will be a challenge.

Across the country, 10,000 restaurants have closed over the past three months, according to the National Restaurant Association. In New York, the numbers have been dismal. Last week, even before the new ban was announced, dining in restaurants in the state was down about 70% compared to this time last year, according to CNN Business's economic recovery tracker, which uses data from the reservation site OpenTable.

"We have pivoted, we've changed, we've opened, we've done everything that has been asked," said Melba Wilson, owner of Melba's Restaurant in Harlem and the president of the New York City Hospitality Alliance. "I don't know that we can come back from this," she added.

Melba's Restaurant has been open for 16 years. Before the pandemic hit, Wilson had about 39 people on staff. Now she's down to about 19, and fears that the new restrictions will mean letting more people go.

She feels that the restrictions on New York City are unnecessarily harsh because restaurants in other parts of New York state are currently allowed to stay open for indoor dining despite surging cases.

"Why do we have to be penalized?" she said, referring to NYC restaurants that have been following official guidelines. "A lot of us are not going to be able to come back."

During his press conference on Friday, Cuomo said that a commercial eviction moratorium put in place during the pandemic will be extended. He also pointed to the city's outdoor dining program, which has allowed restaurants to build ad-hoc outdoor dining setups, as a form of relief. Many restaurants have used the new program to bring in more business. And he mentioned that in the absence of outdoor dining, restaurants have turned to delivery and takeout.

But the reaction from elected officials has frustrated some restaurant owners, who see the measures as far from enough.

"They can have their Zoom meetings and give their opinions. They're not out on the street, they don't have the problems that we do," said Sam Barbieri, owner of Waterfront Ale House in Manhattan.

The alternatives to indoor dining fall short for many restaurants. Delivery services like Seamless often take a cut from each order, which can put restaurants in the red. And outdoor dining is expensive to set up. Plus, as the weather turns, fewer people may opt to eat outdoors. And ahead of winter storms, restaurants may have to dismantle their outdoor setups altogether.

"I need to be open," Barbieri said. "Let us operate our business as it used to. Trust us that we're going to separate people," indoors, he said. "Let's move forward."

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 667262

Reported Deaths: 12737
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion913541660
Lake48729891
Allen36175646
Hamilton32489398
St. Joseph30361514
Elkhart25536420
Vanderburgh21343382
Tippecanoe20240205
Johnson16485363
Porter16077281
Hendricks15955302
Clark12079182
Madison11810323
Vigo11699234
Monroe10440164
Delaware9899179
LaPorte9838201
Howard9127203
Kosciusko8600111
Bartholomew7531147
Hancock7471134
Warrick7456153
Floyd7269173
Wayne6661192
Grant6465158
Boone618691
Morgan6135129
Dubois5942112
Dearborn551570
Cass5489100
Marshall5456105
Henry544395
Noble513878
Jackson465967
Shelby463591
Lawrence4197113
Gibson405585
Harrison404065
Clinton397653
Montgomery391984
DeKalb388278
Miami358463
Knox357886
Whitley352438
Huntington350877
Steuben340455
Putnam334660
Wabash333976
Ripley328062
Adams326349
Jasper319343
White298553
Jefferson296574
Daviess286196
Fayette272756
Decatur271688
Greene262680
Posey261732
Wells259175
Scott252150
LaGrange242670
Clay241644
Randolph226577
Spencer219630
Jennings216944
Washington213327
Sullivan203839
Fountain202842
Starke190051
Owen184254
Fulton179937
Jay178828
Carroll176919
Perry174136
Orange171451
Rush165722
Vermillion161543
Franklin160135
Tipton150041
Parke140216
Pike128633
Blackford120727
Pulaski107844
Newton96832
Brown95340
Crawford92613
Benton92513
Martin80314
Warren76014
Switzerland7568
Union67510
Ohio54211
Unassigned0427

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 978471

Reported Deaths: 17501
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1130371251
Cuyahoga969331881
Hamilton739231067
Montgomery47536923
Summit40720831
Butler35859531
Lucas35802720
Stark29602826
Warren22593275
Lorain22218424
Mahoning19586551
Lake18564332
Clermont18541205
Delaware16614121
Licking15096194
Fairfield14653188
Trumbull14437424
Greene13664221
Medina13531237
Clark12394256
Wood11670170
Portage11140172
Allen10822216
Richland10376188
Miami10065194
Muskingum8244117
Columbiana8174210
Pickaway8096111
Tuscarawas8083232
Marion8021127
Wayne7939199
Erie6972146
Ross6178132
Geauga6118142
Hancock6032121
Scioto600988
Ashtabula6002154
Lawrence527886
Union516741
Darke5052116
Belmont5000137
Huron4862108
Jefferson4843137
Sandusky4800112
Washington475596
Seneca4738111
Athens466449
Mercer459781
Auglaize456682
Shelby442679
Knox4056105
Putnam400593
Madison395755
Fulton383461
Ashland383083
Brown375252
Defiance374088
Crawford360198
Logan357673
Preble354187
Clinton342755
Highland328551
Ottawa325471
Williams303568
Jackson292046
Champaign291149
Guernsey288945
Perry271348
Fayette270143
Morrow261637
Henry247961
Hardin247359
Holmes244497
Coshocton241156
Van Wert230357
Gallia223938
Adams218339
Pike217328
Wyandot212450
Hocking195154
Carroll182143
Paulding161134
Meigs136031
Noble129233
Monroe117637
Morgan102220
Harrison100731
Vinton76713
Unassigned00
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