NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Restaurants and bars are vital to the Big Apple, but many face the risk of closing for good due to the coronavirus pandemic. Owners are begging for reopening directives from Mayor Bill de Blasio.
CBS2’s Jenna DeAngelis was on Ninth Avenue in Hell’s Kitchen on Thursday. It is lined with bars and restaurants, many doing takeout and delivery. They’re among thousands of establishments in all five boroughs that are desperate for an idea of when they can actually let people inside.
James O’Reilly has been busy at Yerman’s Irish Pub in Queens getting ready to reopen. The big question is when and if a barrier protecting the bartender and the customer will become a reality.
When asked if he’s worried about having to close his business, O’Reilly said, “Yeah, my employees, they depend on me and here big time.”
And he’s depending on the city to give him some guidance as a business owner.
O’Reilly said there has not been any communication.
“We have to get back to work. We have to know what their guideline is as to how bars and restaurants can reopen,” he said.
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That was echoed by business owners at a rally on Staten Island.
“Everyone’s essential here, give us a little something to start with. You don’t give anything. We don’t know — June, July, August, when?” said Angelina Malerba of Angelina’s Ristorante.
“You have not reached out to us. We’re the experts in our business. Nobody wants our customers to feel more safe than us. We want to bring them back safely and responsibly,” added Robert DeLuca of DeLuca’s Italian Restaurant.
Andrew Rigie, the executive director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance, said, “The one thing they keep telling us is we need outdoor space.”
The mayor did not address specifics for restaurants on Thursday, but mentioned support for outdoor restaurant seating. However, he did have a threat for violators.
“If any of them are found operating again that begins with a $1,000 daily fine. If they’re found in violation again there’s another fine and that keeps escalating from there,” de Blasio said.
As far as Rigie is concerned, he’s working with the City Council on legislation to allow outdoor seating once reopening begins.
“Partial streets could be shut down. We could use additional sidewalk space, parks, pedestrian plazas, to allow restaurants to set up tables and chairs to serve,” Rigie said.
Peter Staley, the general manager of Westville in Hell’s Kitchen, is on board with that, but also had a question for the mayor.
“A lot of businesses are struggling and in order to make sure that we can make it through this and come out the other end as strong as ever we would like to have some sort of knowledge as to what we’d be entitled and able to do once we reopen,” Staley said.
Restaurants fall in Phase 3 of reopening and the mayor said Phase 1 for the city should begin in the coming weeks.
Restaurant owners in New Jersey are also demanding to know when it’s their turn to open up.
For 25 years, the owners at Enzzo’s Trattoria in Short Hills — Vincenzo Urso and Perri Urso — have prided themselves on their personal touches and conversations with customers.
They just wish someone from the state or town could communicate with them right now.
“We’re trying to figure out what’s going on and we’re waiting for the government to give us direction,” Vincenzo Urso told CBS2’s Jessica Layton.
Forced into curbside service only, they’ve been envisioning a plan for outdoor seating on their patio for weeks.
“My servers, my staff comes in, they’re looking at us through the windows, they’re begging us, they miss us, they want to get back to work,” Perri Urso said.
Using the hashtag #OpenOutsideDiningNJ, angry residents and restaurateurs took to Twitter with messages directed at Gov. Phil Murphy, saying, “You are killing business” and “It’s time for NJ to live again.”
“Every day that restaurants cannot reopen is just another day that several restaurants will not ever reopen,” said Marilou Halvorsen, of the New Jersey Restaurant and Hospitality Association.
She’s pushing to allow restaurants to open for outdoor dining on June 5 and be operating at 50% capacity indoors by June 15.
“With the caveat that if we see a big increase or a big spike, then we may have to push those dates out. Everybody would understand that,” Halvorsen said.
Murphy is expected to unveil guidance for outdoor dining on Friday.