(NEW YORK) — Bars and restaurants are finally catching a glimmer of hope as more Americans are getting vaccinated and cities and states begin to ease restrictions enacted during the pandemic.
The lengthy temporary mandate that required patrons at bars and restaurants to order food prepared on site with the purchase of alcohol soon will be a thing of the past — at least in some states.
Many establishments across the country, especially those that previously didn’t have full kitchens, crafted inventive ways, and in some cases spent thousands of dollars on operational makeovers, to comply with the new regulations.
The state Senate voted unanimously to repeal the emergency COVID-era measure — ordered in July by Gov. Andrew Cuomo as part of an effort to dissuade mingling and control crowd sizes — and then the measure passed in the Assembly on Wednesday.
More than a year after Cuomo first declared a state of emergency, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio made a much more positive declaration: that the Big Apple is on track for a full reopening starting July 1.
“This is going to be the summer of New York City,” he said in a press conference. “I think people are going to flock to New York City because they want to live again … what you have done is the reason I can make this announcement today. Based on all the progress we’ve made, we are ready to reopen full strength.”
While the ultimate determination will come from the state level, the encouraging news comes just one day after Cuomo announced an end to midnight curfews for food and beverage service.
Restaurants and bars can resume normal operating hours starting May 17 for outdoors and May 31 for indoors. And patrons can once again saddle up to a bar starting May 3.
Andrew Rigie, executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance, hailed the news.
“[It] provides optimism for small business owners and workers who have been financially devastated by the pandemic, but we’re still on a very long road to full economic and social recovery,” he said. “We urge our government leaders to double down on efforts to revive the hospitality industry, including enacting legislation to continue the popular alcohol to-go policy, issuing temporary liquor licenses for new restaurants and bars in New York City to open faster, permanently capping third-party delivery fees, and swiftly connecting Restaurant Revitalization Fund dollars to struggling businesses.”
Additionally in New York, Cuomo announced that catered events at residences could resume on May 3. Cuomo also lifted the 1 a.m. curfew for catered events if guests have proof of their vaccination or a negative COVID test result starting May 17. The curfew for all catered events is set to be lifted on May 31.
“All the arrows are pointing in the right direction, and now we’re able to increase economic activity even more,” Cuomo said. “Lifting these restrictions for restaurants, bars and catering companies will allow these businesses that have been devastated by the pandemic to begin to recover as we return to a new normal in a post-pandemic world.”
Pubs, dive bars, cocktail joints and restaurants across the state no longer will have to worry about adapting to put a food menu in front of guests who only want to drink.
As of May 29, the state will lift the COVID-related business restriction on bars and restaurants “that food be served with alcohol and increase the maximum table size to 10,” Gov. Charlie Baker announced earlier this week.
Bars, beer gardens and wineries can also reopen without having to serve food, but customers must be seated and spaced out 6 feet apart, and dance floors still won’t be allowed. Street festivals and parades can go ahead at 50% capacity if plans are approved by local boards of health, according to the governor.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Thursday that the Windy City will loosen its current COVID-19 restrictions as vaccinations increase and metrics continue to improve.
Restaurants and bars will no longer be required to serve food with alcoholic beverages, according to the latest state guidelines.
This is a developing story. Please check back for additional updates on other states.
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