Coronavirus in NYC and Restaurants: Calls for a Shutdown Grow After Saturday Night Crowds – Eater NY

Restaurant News

After a Saturday night with many restaurants and bars filled with people, more government officials are calling for a shutdown of public spaces to help curb the spread of COVID-19 — including closing restaurants and bars.

Brad Ladner, the city councilman for Brooklyn neighborhoods such as Park Slope and Carroll Gardens, called for a shutdown of “non-essential businesses” like restaurants. Comptroller Scott Stringer, “out of an abundance of caution,” called for closures on Sunday morning. And Councilman Mark Levine, who chairs the Council Committee on Health, said that many venues were violating the new state order requiring businesses to reduce capacity in half. He too called for a shutdown, under the hashtag #shutdownNYC, pointing to the health of staff, who have no choice but to show up.

Meanwhile, on Saturday night in nearby Hoboken, Mayor Ravinder Bhalla banned all restaurants from having dine-in customers and closed bars without food all together, also implementing a 10 p.m. curfew for residents. The development came about after a person who got into a bar fight in Hoboken waited more than 30 minutes for an ambulance due to a strained health system, Bhalla wrote in a press release.

“This is not OK. This is not a drill. This is dangerous,” Levine tweeted.

Though not calling for a mass shutdown yet, Governor Andrew Cuomo asked that people to stay at home Saturday night, and earlier in the day U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez implored people to stop crowding businesses.

The mounting pressure to close all restaurants and bars follows a whirlwind week, where the number of confirmed cases has exponentially grown. The city banned gatherings of over 500 people as of Friday night, leading to a slew of event cancellations, and mandated that all restaurants and bars — many of which were already experiencing a freefall in sales over the past week — had to operate at 50 percent capacity.

Though most people who contract the virus will only show minor symptoms, as the virus spreads, the likelihood rises for vulnerable populations to contract the disease. The crisis is also already impacting on the city’s hospital systems.

Lots of restaurants and restaurant groups have closed, from big ones like Union Square Hospitality Group and Momofuku to smaller ones like the team behind hip neighborhood restaurants Hart’s, Cervo’s, and the Fly. But many bars and restaurants — some facing outstanding bills and rent — have said they feel no choice but to stay open to keep paying staff.

Measures to soften the economic blows for both businesses and hundreds of hospitality workers now faced with unemployment are still in the early stages.

“They should have just made a final decision,” Matthew Roff, the owner of Brooklyn bar Franklin Park, told Eater on Saturday.

As more photos of spaces of crowded spaces spread online, restaurants and bars also face scrutiny for not appropriately enforcing the rule — although some owners say getting people to stay away from each other has been difficult. Franklin Park went viral over a photo in which it appeared that the bar was not operating at half capacity on Friday night. In fact, Roff had posted the new mandate in the bar and had been taking head counts throughout the night; he said they could not control where people stood.

A tipster sent Eater a photo of City Vineyard, City Winery’s Pier 26 space, showing a crowd just after 5 p.m. on Saturday. But the company — which has implemented measures like posting signs asking people to respect space — says customers all flocked to the perimeter of the pier to take in the river view around that time. In response, City Vineyard has adjusted the table set-up and will not be letting clientele move closer together for Sunday’s business.

“Our highly visible location, while normally a blessing, has set us up for increased scrutiny in this scenario and we are working hard to do our best to support our people and our public health efforts,” a spokesperson said in a statement, adding that they’re staying open to maintain jobs for staff.

Pier 26 looks filled with people.

City Vineyard looks filled with people just after 5 p.m.
Eater tipster

A screenshot from a security footage video of City Vineyard, which shows empty space in the middle and people lining the permiter.

City Vineyard from the inside around that time
City Winery [Official]

At a Saturday afternoon press conference, Mayor Bill de Blasio resisted closing schools and shutting down businesses — saying that it’s a day-by-day and hour-by-hour decision-making process, balancing economic impact with health needs. However, he added that “I don’t want to see a bar where everyone’s crowded up against each other, and we have to step in in that case.”

Last night, the director of the Office of Nightlife and teams from the fire department were out in the city to make sure people understood the rules, the mayor’s office said. But details on enforcement have been unclear since the half-capacity mandate was announced Thursday.

There were 183 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus in New York City as of Saturday, March 14, at 1:30 p.m., according to NYC’s Department of Health, and 613 confirmed cases of COVID-19 across New York, according to the Johns Hopkins coronavirus research center. There have been two confirmed deaths in New York from the virus: On Saturday, March 14, an elderly Brooklyn woman with an underlying medical condition died, and on Thursday, March 12, a 64-year-old who tested positive for the virus and had underlying health problems also died.

This post has been updated with more calls from city officials for a shutdown, plus details from City Winery.

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