WEST NYACK, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — It’s been two weeks since Gov. Andrew Cuomo allowed New York shopping malls to reopen, but a key piece of the mall experience is still banned: grabbing a table at the food court.
Business owners say it’s unfair and hurting their bottom line.
Sitting on the floor, squeezing onto benches and standing at trash receptacles. With tables removed from the food court at Palisades Center and other New York malls, hungry shoppers are getting creative finding alternatives.
“You just gotta do what you gotta do,” said Bronx resident Sito Jones, in an interview with CBS2’s Tony Aiello.
“We have to just take our food, walk over to section eight where I parked the car, eat the food, and then you say to yourself, do I want to come back into the mall after I finish eating,” said New Rochelle resident Eric Ponce.
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Food court operators say the lack of seating is nibbling away at their already diminished profits.
“We have like less than 20% from last year’s sales,” said Tharwat Saad of Sbarro Pizza.
Many Palisades food vendors signed a letter to Cuomo pleading for help. They point out in the letter that stand-alone restaurants in the mall are allowed 50% capacity for dine-in seating and the food court is so vast that it can easily be set up for social distancing.
“They should just put tables six feet apart,” said Bronx resident Nellie Smith. “It’s not fair the restaurants get to open and you dine in, but the food court got to have their customers suffer by not eating at a table.”
“I would like to see some tables here, you know, just a few,” another woman said.
Mall managements says it’s also prepared to assign cleaning crews to sanitize every table between every use.
A few miles away in New Jersey, mall food court tables are also off-limits.
Governors of both states say they are constantly reviewing restrictions. Food court operators are looking for the table ban to be lifted, so their customers can take a proper seat.
Mall owners say when food court tables return, their security officers will work to ensure social distancing is respected.
In Connecticut, meanwhile, mall food courts are open for diners, with 50% of the tables removed to allow for social distancing.