Indoor dining at New York City restaurants can start back up on Feb. 14 — Valentine's Day — at 25 percent capacity as long as coronavirus positivity rates in the city do not rise, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Friday.
The latest ban on indoor dining in the city of 8.4 million people came in December when cases surged after Thanksgiving and end-of-the-year holiday gatherings promised to bring more virus spread.
Restaurants in most of the rest of New York state remained open, enraging owners in the city, where indoor dining had only just resumed in September after the shutdown in March.
Owners also complained that start-ups and shutdowns were announced with little time for them to prepare.
"The restaurants want a period of time so they can notify workers, they can get up to speed for indoor dining, order supplies, et cetera," Cuomo said at a press conference Friday.
Restaurants in the five boroughs have been limited to sidewalk and street seating, trying to adapt with yurts, heaters and blankets — anything to keep the customers coming as the mercury continued to fall.
As Cuomo also announced that wedding receptions of up to 50 percent capacity, up to 150 people, could resume March 15 as long as all guests are tested, he said Feb. 14 might be an excellent time to propose. "No pressure," Cuomo quipped. "But, it's just an idea."
Cuomo said pre-testing will allow more venues and stadiums to reopen after successfully allowing fans to attend two Buffalo Bills home playoff games earlier this month with strict testing and tracing rules. No cases were reported in connection to the games.
"We're not going to have the full vaccine for many many months. In New York, we want to use testing as the key to reopening events, and we tested it in Buffalo and ... we're going to extend it in the New York state safe marriage receptions," Cuomo said.
"Promise of marital bliss is returning," he said.
The lift on restrictions is contingent on case rates staying low.
According to New York City data, total cases in New York City are down 4.2 percent over the last seven days compared with the weekly average for the month prior, while hospitalization numbers are down 5.4 percent. Death rates remained mostly the same.