NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — More needed relief is coming to New York City and New Jersey restaurant owners.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Gov. Phil Murphy announced Wednesday that indoor dining capacity will be increased to 50% starting March 19. The news comes just days after Cuomo announced that all eateries in New York outside of the Big Apple could increase to 75% capacity on that same date.


The state and the city are currently operating at 50% and 35% capacity, respectively.

“In New York State, our decisions are based on science and data and we are encouraged by the continued decline in infection and hospitalization rates,” Cuomo said. “In partnership with the State of New Jersey, we are expanding our indoor dining openings in New York City to 50%. We will continue to follow the science and react accordingly. If we keep the infections down and vaccinations up, we will continue to stay ahead in the footrace against this invisible enemy and reach the light at the end of the tunnel together.”

New York state reported a 3.16% COVID-19 positivity rate on Wednesday, with 58 new deaths.

Andrew Rigie, executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance, welcomed the news.

“Cautiously and safely increasing indoor dining capacity at New York City restaurants to 50%, with an eye toward expanding in the future, more vaccinations, and dedicated restaurant relief on its way from the federal government gives our industry some optimism among all the doom and gloom of this past year,” Rigie said in a statement.

However, some restaurant owners said the bump in capacity is still not enough.

They said they are grateful for the increase in indoor dinning, but small restaurant owners say it’s difficult to increase the number of tables when they still have to be six feet apart, CBS2’s Marcia Kramer reported.

“Fifty percent is great, but I’d like to know how I can do that with the same size space, when you have to have six feet apart. The math doesn’t work,” said Regina DelFino, owner of Mario’s on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx. “It’s a good move, but we have to lessen the space. Even if we had three feet between each table we would be able to get more people in here and still keep them safe, I believe. And, you know, Westchester is at 75% and Connecticut is going to 100%. Why are we so far behind?”

Watch Marcia Kramer’s report —

Others, however, are thrilled.

“It’s great for business, good for the owner, good for us, too, you know? Gets me more tips,” server Souria Badawy told CBS2’s Natalie Duddridge.

“We’re getting back to normal. It’s like one year after. It’s crazy. I love it,” said Luis Garcia, manager at Arriba Arriba.

Some patrons say they feel fine eating inside. Others still prepare to sit outside, but eiher way, they’re here to support.

“Fantastic. I mean, it’s time. It’s time,” said Maritza Arroyo of Freeport, N.Y. “But, you know, we still have to be careful, with what’s going on.”

“I’m so happy that we don’t have to eat outside and be cold, and we have a nice environment inside,” Melody Stern added.

“That’s good for the business, for the restaurant business. That’s a good thing,” Longwood resident Julie Brown said. “A lot of people have been suffering, so thank God.”

“It’s a blessing that things are coming back slowly, so I’m grateful,” another woman said.

“To be honest, I’m surprised they’re even still open. I don’t know how they pay their rent,” patron Hamish Ganga said.

“All these boarded-up restaurants, it’s very sad,” patron Dan Bocchino said. “We’re New Yorkers. We have to recover.”


As New Jersey also makes progress, Murphy said scientific data and public compliance with coronavirus protocols will continue to be monitored.

“In New Jersey, we will continue to move deliberately, responsibly and incrementally, guided by public health data. We feel confident in this step given the improving metrics we have seen over the last several weeks in both New Jersey and New York City, as well as the continued ramp up of our vaccination program. Our states will continue to work together to protect the health of as many residents as possible,” the governor said.

Murphy said Wednesday the statewide rate of transmission based on the seven-day rolling average of cases through Monday, is now at 1.04%.

The Garden State will also boost capacities at gyms, amusement centers, salons and barbershops up to 50%.

“It’s going to be great. The businesses really need this to survive and get through,” said Adam Bourque, at Hoboken Hair.

“Yes, it’s time to hit the town,” one customer said.

The governor says the decision was based on a steady decline in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations.

“For example, on Feb. 5, when our restaurant capacity last changed, our hospitals were treating just under 2,900 patients. That number has come down by about 1,000 and has been consistent since then,” Murphy said.

The encouraging news came on a bleak anniversary. Wednesday marked exactly one year since New Jersey’s first COVID death. John Brennan, a veteran horseman in Little  Ferry, died at age 69.

“We had no idea at that time how many more lives we would lose and how many families would be impacted,” Murphy said.

To prevent further loss of life, the governor says he is considering all reopenings very cautiously.

Starting March 19, indoor gatherings in the state can include up to 25 people and outdoor gatherings will be bumped up to 50 people.

CBS2’s Marcia Kramer and Natalie Duddridge contributed to this report

CBSNewYork Team