Is 25% Fair? Indoor Dining & COVID-19 Vaccine Updates for NYC Restaurants

This week, restaurants in New York City received two important pieces of news: indoor dining will return at 25% capacity starting on Valentine’s Day, and restaurant workers are now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine as part of New York’s Phase 1B.

Just like when restaurants first reopened for indoor dining last fall, the basic safety measures will be required and enforced, such as face masks, table distancing, contact tracing, and appropriate restaurant disinfection & safety plans. Here’s what you should know about these two important updates:

NYC Indoor Dining Reopens on Valentines Day

Last Friday, Governor Cuomo announced that limited indoor dining will be allowed to return to NYC restaurants and bars on Valentine’s Day (Sunday, February 14). Capacity will be limited to 25% and proper sanitization and safety rules must be followed.

With cold winter weather and recent snowstorms discouraging people from dining outdoors, the return of indoor service can be seen as a much-needed source of revenue for NYC’s battered restaurant industry. However, this move has also met with a lot of criticism, with many people questioning why indoor dining had been banned, allowed, then banned again for so long. Restaurant owners also rightly argue that the 25% capacity limits are far too stringent, making it difficult if not impossible to operate profitably on already-slim margins. Outside of NYC, everywhere else in New York State has had indoor dining permitted at 50% capacity.

“Restaurants in the city are ready to safely open now. Unfortunately, once again the state’s standards are being applied inequitably in the five boroughs without a transparent and data-driven system for further reopening the city’s restaurant economy.” – NYC Hospitality Alliance

The winter spike in COVID-19 infection rates is understandably the main factor behind the strict indoor dining restrictions for the country’s most densely-populated city. Indoor venues like restaurants and bars have been identified as high-risk places where coronavirus transmission occurs. Yet, there is currently a lack of direct evidence that ties indoor dining capacity limits (such as 25% versus 50%) to infection rates. After all, restaurant capacity is only one of many factors that contribute to the risk of infection.

Last fall, many NYC restaurants invested in pricey air filtration systems, robust table partitions, and professional disinfection services in order to create the safest dining environment possible. Using a one-size-fits-all policy that limits all NYC restaurants to 25%, regardless of any additional safety measures taken, may in fact achieve the opposite effect of making indoor dining less safe by discouraging restauranteurs from investing in these types of safety measures.

Restaurant Workers are Eligible for the COVID-19 Vaccine

As of February 2nd, 2021, NYC added restaurant workers to Phase 1B’s vaccine-eligible groups alongside NYC taxi drivers. The newly expanded eligibility comes as indoor dining is expected to reopen for many bars and eateries around the city. Restaurant workers will soon be on the front lines once again, serving and interacting with diners in enclosed spaces.

Restaurant workers were not originally part of New York’s Phase 1B plan, which was centered around other front-line essential workers such as law enforcement, fire services, education, and grocery store workers. However, the recent arrival of additional vaccines from the federal government allowed New York to increase vaccine distribution by 20%, giving restaurant workers the option to receive the vaccine in advance.

Aside from being eligible, whether or not New York’s 600,000 restaurant workers will actually receive the vaccine over the next few weeks and months is a different matter. Due to high demand and low supply, the waiting lines are long and many eligible New Yorkers have struggled to find available appointments.

If you’re a restaurant worker, we recommend making an appointment as soon as possible. Here’s where you can make appointments and find vaccine centers near you:

A sanitation worker uses electrostatic fogging to disinfect a restaurant.

COVID-19 Disinfection & Sanitizing Services for NYC Restaurants

Professional restaurant disinfection services help restaurants and bars stay safe by actively killing and eliminating the coronaviruses from all kinds of surfaces in dining rooms, waiting areas, kitchens, and bathrooms.

With positive COVID-19 cases in New York surpassing 1 million, it’s important for restaurants and the food industry to take appropriate safety measures to keep workers and diners safe. In addition to basic safety requirements such as enforcing face masks, social distancing, and contact tracing, properly sanitizing and disinfecting restaurants helps mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.

Green Orchard Group specializes at thoroughly sanitizing and disinfecting restaurants and other commercial spaces. We use EPA-registered, plant-based disinfectants that have been proven effective at deactivating the coronavirus while also being non-toxic and safe for food contact surfaces. Our disinfection protocols use state-of-the-art electrostatic foggers and HEPA air scrubbers to ensure that your restaurant or bar is completely sanitized and safe for your employees and diners.

If you’d like to receive a free quote for reliable and trusted restaurant disinfection services, call (212) 219-8261 or fill out our contact form here.