People eat at outside tables in Manhattan on Aug. 31. | Spencer Platt/Getty Images
NEW YORK — A deal could be reached as soon as this week to allow indoor dining in New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday.
While city restaurants have been allowed to operate outdoors since June, indoor service has remained banned to prevent a resurgence of the coronavirus.
De Blasio has previously said indoor dining would not return for the foreseeable future, with no plan to allow it this year and perhaps not until there is a vaccine for Covid-19. But under increasing pressure from the industry and other politicians, he said Wednesday his office is in talks with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and hopes to reach an agreement soon.
“The last thing we want to see is anyone lose their business. It’s been horrendous for the restaurant industry,” the mayor told reporters.
He said there have been “a lot of conversations over the last few days between my office and the governor’s office. Everyone is working together, trying to figure out what’s safe.”
A key point in any agreement will be a public health threshold dictating when indoor dining can operate and when it must shut down — similar to the city’s public schools, which will stay open only if the positive coronavirus test rate stays below 3 percent.
The city and state are also hashing out what regulations restaurants would have to follow, de Blasio said. In other parts of the state, indoor dining is already allowed at 50 percent of normal capacity.
De Blasio said his fears that indoor dining could fuel a resurgence of the disease remain.
“We’ve seen problems around the world with indoor dining. We take it very seriously. And particularly problems with bars and nightclubs. Those need to be handled in an even more stringent fashion,” he said. “But bottom line is, we are making progress. We all need to come to an agreement on what will be safe, what the standards will be.”
Restaurants have sued the city and state over the indoor dining ban, arguing that it is unfair to allow eateries to open outside city limits but not in the five boroughs. A growing number of elected officials have also come out in favor of allowing indoor dining.
More than 10,000 restaurants have signed up for a new outdoor dining program, allowing them to set up tables in parking spaces and on sidewalks. That is currently scheduled to end on Oct. 31, but de Blasio has said he is considering extending it.
“We’re trying our best to see if there’s a way we can give some clarity to the restaurant industry so they can have some option to keep going,” de Blasio said. “But remember, it will all be dependent on how we’re doing with the coronavirus overall.”
On Wednesday, the city reported an infection rate of 1.04 percent, with 220 new cases of Covid-19.