Gov. Cuomo gives New York City malls green light to reopen, holds back on indoor dining

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo wears a protective face mask as he arrives to speak during a daily briefing following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Manhattan in New York City, New York, U.S., July 13, 2020.

Mike Segar | Reuters

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Thursday that New York City malls will be allowed to reopen with safety precautions, but indoor dining is still on hold as local officials struggle to enforce the state’s orders to curb the coronavirus. 

Malls in New York City that have proper high-quality air filtration systems to prevent the coronavirus’ spread will be allowed to reopen beginning Sept. 9 at 50% occupancy, Cuomo said. Casinos across the state can begin operating that same day at 25% occupancy, he said during a press call. 

However, as colder temperatures approach the Big Apple, the Democratic governor has yet to OK indoor dining. Unlike those in other parts of the state, New York City’s restaurants have been staying afloat over the summer through takeout and outdoor dining, but they can’t serve patrons inside. 

The decision has been criticized by local officials and business owners, including City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who said Wednesday that it’s time to allow indoor dining in the city as the summer comes to a close and restaurant owners prepare for the colder months. 

Johnson noted that New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, also a Democrat, announced his state can begin indoor dining on Friday at 25% capacity. 

“I want to open the restaurants in New York City,” Cuomo said on the call. “I don’t know how we’re going to do the compliance and, by the way, I am open to any suggestions.”

Cuomo has recently allowed other businesses to reopen, including gyms and museums, and is gearing up to reopen schools for in-person instruction, which will require additional state resources to monitor and protect against Covid-19 outbreaks, he said. Those reopenings pose “a complication” for reopening indoor dining in the city, he said. 

“I understand the tension on the issue,” Cuomo said, adding that the state has the legal authority to reopen the restaurants, not the city. “We have major problems in New York City with the compliance on the bars. I have beseeched New York City to do a better job on compliance and enforcement.” 

Cuomo called on the New York Police Department and the New York State Restaurant Association, which has called for indoor dining in the city, to create a plan or a “task force” that would effectively allow restaurants to reopen while enforcing the governor’s rules. 

New York requires all restaurants open for indoor dining to operate at reduced capacity, limit table sizes, enforce face coverings except while seated and limit staff meetings, among other guidelines.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said at his daily press briefing on Thursday that the city and state have worked together every day and “the state has been right there with us in understanding the challenges that come with indoor activity.”

He applauded the New York City Sheriff’s Office for doing “an absolutely outstanding job with restaurants enforcement, with quarantine enforcement.” 

De Blasio said the city would “come to a decision in the next days, definitely in the month of September,” though the governor has to first grant the city permission. 

“We will have more guidance, but the guidance will be based on what is in the interest of 8 million-plus New Yorkers who have to beat this disease,” de Blasio said. 

Correction: This story was updated to reflect that Cuomo said, “I have beseeched New York City to do a better job on compliance and enforcement.” 

— CNBC’s Will Feuer contributed to this report. 

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