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2-Week Pause On Indoor Dining In New York City Begins Monday As State Monitors COVID Hospitalizations

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Sunday is the final day for restaurant customers in New York City to dine indoors before it is put on hold for at least two weeks.

Starting Monday, indoor dining is banned in the city in an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus and prevent hospitals from becoming overwhelmed with patients. Delivery, takeout and outdoor dining will still be allowed.

Sunday brunch inside Rego Park's Dinerbar was lively as customers got table service inside one last time before it shuts down.

"It breaks my heart to just let half of my staff go because of this," restaurant owner Spiro Gatanas told CBS2's Dave Carlin.

Gatanas says he knows where much of his business will go.

"Our clientele basically is just going to go one town over and eat. They'll go to Nassau, where the restaurants are open, and we just don't understand," he said.

MORE: Indoor Dining To Be Suspended In New York City, Gov. Cuomo Cites Increasing COVID-19 Hospitalizations

On Friday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the restrictions were necessary because of the increase in hospitalizations in the five boroughs, an increase in the transmission rate and the city's natural density.

"The increasing [rate of transmission] is a problem... more of a problem in dense areas," Cuomo said when making the announcement. "In New York City, you put the CDC caution on indoor dining together with the rate of transmission and the density and the crowding, that is a bad situation."

The loss of revenue and jobs is hard to swallow, however.

"It's horrible. It's killing small business. I think it's the wrong thing to do," Midtown resident Joe Coots said.

The ban is happening even though the state admits only 1.43% of recent exposures that let to infections were traced to bars and restaurants.

"I think it's rough on businesses," Union City resident Coral Blanco said.

Watch Dave Carlin's report --

In Manhattan, air filters inside the Mansion Diner welcomed customers into the evening on York Avenue and 86th Street.

Owner John Philips says business is already down around 40% from last year.

"We rely on that outdoor seating as being the only saving grace," he told CBS2's Lisa Rozner.

Philips says the shelter, which has several heated stalls, cost him $40,000.


But the Sanitation Department is warning it may issue a snow alert for Wednesday, and that suspends outdoor dining when more than one inch of snow is forecast. If more than a foot is expected, the alert calls for outdoor structures or barrier to be removed or made smaller.

The city recommends removing rooftops from outdoor structures during snow storms and taking furniture and heaters inside.

"This is a fairly permanent structure. If I take this down, it's gone and it's gone forever," Philips said.

Owners may want to move the structures to protect them from heavy snow and plows, and also to clear roads as much as possible to make way f or first responders, according to the Department of Sanitation's acting commissioner Edward Grayson.

"The restaurant owners should do what they feel they can do if we have such a high threshold of snow coming to protect their investments, so that when we're out of the snow, they can get back to operating inside that structure," he said.

Grayson told CBS2 the plan is not to fine anyone.

CORONAVIRUS: NY Health Dept. | NY Call 1-(888)-364-3065 | NYC Health Dept. | NYC Call 311, Text COVID to 692692 | NJ COVID-19 Info Hub | NJ Call 1-(800)-222-1222 or 211, Text NJCOVID to 898211 | CT Health Dept. | CT Call 211 | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

"They're killing us. They're killing business," Gatanas said.

The state will extend a moratorium on evictions for commercial tenants, but the governor and industry representatives say what is most needed is for Congress to act on the stalled multi-billion dollar federal stimulus plan.

The New York Restaurant Association recently put out a survey that finds 54% of restaurants won't survive the next six months without some form of federal relief.

There is hope on the horizon with vaccine shipments expected to begin arriving in the state this week.

RELATED STORY -- COVID-19 Vaccine: Tri-State Area Hospitals Expect First Shipments To Arrive As Soon As Monday

Mayor Bill de Blasio says this will be a week that changes the city's history.

He says the vaccine will be distributed equitably and fairly.

"We are adamant in this city that we will not distribute this vaccine according to who has the most wealth or privilege or celebrity. We will distribute it according to which community needs it the most," he said.

Some experts, however, predict we must get to March or April before the vaccine slows the spread, so mask-wearing and social distancing must continue.


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