Sept. 1, 2020 By Christian Murray
Council Member Costa Constantinides is calling on the city to come up with a plan to allow indoor dining.
The council member said Friday that if the city is able to reopen schools and gyms then there is no reason why a plan to permit indoor dining can’t be put together like the rest of the state.
The need to permit indoor dining grows greater as the winter approaches, the council member said.
“As the weather begins to cool we know our independently owned restaurant will soon take another hit when outdoor dining is no longer feasible,” Constantinides said on Friday. “So, I was incredibly upset when City Hall signaled it was giving up on these small businesses in relation to indoor dining.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo remain opposed to indoor dining, despite restaurants in Long Island and Westchester being allowed to operate at 50 percent capacity. New Jersey also gave the greenlight for restaurants to open indoors at a 25 percent capacity starting Friday.
Constantinides said the city needs to create a plan to allow New York City restaurants to operate indoors. The city’s outdoor dining program ends Oct. 31.
The plan should allow restaurants to operate but at a reduced capacity, with the city working with them to make sure the right HVAC systems are in place to filter air. In addition, he said, barriers should go up between tables for additional protection between diners.
Constantinides said that the restaurant industry is what make Astoria what it is and it needs to survive. He said that he hasn’t come to this conclusion lightly, given that he and his wife have both battled COVID-19.
“It would be defeatist to abandon them at their hour of need, when they have done so much to make this city what it is.”
De Blasio on Monday indicated that restaurants won’t be able to open their indoor space anytime soon, saying that a vaccine may be needed before that can take place.
“I do pray for and expect, a vaccine in the spring that will allow us all to get more back to normal,” he said. “We’re going to keep looking for that situation where we could push down the virus enough, where we would have more ability to address indoor dining. It would take a huge step forward to get to that point.”
The administration has long based the decision to close indoor dining on the data from other cities and countries.
“We know from the experience everywhere around the world and also from the United States that indoor dining is a very high risk activity, and there’s a reason for that,” said Jay Varma, the mayor’s senior adviser for public health last week.
“One is that you can’t wear a mask while eating,” Varma said, as well as “the duration of time…and your proximity to other people.”