Beginning Monday, May 3, New York State will begin easing many of the restrictions imposed on bars, restaurants and caterers as a means to curb COVID spread, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday.
The first change will be for catered events to again be allowed in residences “above the State's residential gathering limit of 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors, as long as the events are staffed by a professional, licensed caterer, permitted by the respective locality or municipality, and strictly adhere to health and safety guidance, including social and event gathering limits, masks, and social distancing,” according to a statement released by the governor.
On May 17, the midnight curfew for food and beverage service will be lifted for outdoor dining areas, while the same will be lifted for indoor spaces May 31.
Also being lifted on May 17 is the 1 a.m. curfew for catered events where attendees have provided proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID test. The same 1 a.m. curfew for all other catered events will be lifted May 31.
"We know the COVID positivity rate is a function of our behavior, and over the last year New Yorkers have remained disciplined and continued with the practices we know work to stop the spread of the virus," Governor Cuomo said in a prepared statement. "Everything we've been doing is working - all the arrows are pointing in the right direction and now we're able to increase economic activity even more. 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. To be clear: we will only be able to maintain this progress if everyone gets the COVID vaccine. It is the weapon that will win the war and we need everyone to take it, otherwise we risk going backward."
Melissa Fleischut, president and CEO of the New York State Restaurant Association, offered her own written statement in response to the governor’s announcement: “We thank the state for listening to our request for a reopening plan, bringing New York in line with many of our neighbors. With vaccinations going up and positivity rates going down, the hospitality industry can set our sights on rebounding this spring and summer as we scratch and claw our way back to profitability, which for many has seemed impossible.”
State lawmakers were voting on a resolution Wednesday to lift another restriction, the "food with alcohol" rule imposed by a Cuomo executive order that mandated bar patrons must purchase a food item if they were to consume alcohol.
State Senator George Borrello, whose 57th District represents the Southern Tier in Western New York, welcomed Wednesday's announced changes. But he did not let up on his sharp criticism of Cuomo.
“The Governor’s repeal of the curfew, while welcome, is another pathetic attempt to keep himself in office after a multitude of failures and unethical behavior. He should no longer have the authority to dictate mandates and I will keep pressing for the Senate Majority to remove his powers, once and for all," Borrello said. “We are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel and that should give us all great optimism. To my friends and peers in the restaurant and hospitality industry, you’ve endured hardships in the last year that you never imagined. I applaud the grit and tenacity that got you this far and will continue to be your strongest advocate in Albany.”