A lawsuit spurs the return of eating places in New York State, however not NYC

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s handling of food restrictions during Covid-19 has not earned him many fans among New York restaurateurs. Several lawsuits have been filed against the state, including a lawsuit by 70 New York bars and restaurants calling the postponement rules a “Kafkaesque nightmare.”

One of the lawsuits succeeded, at least temporarily, in getting the Cuomo administration to withdraw and return to indoor dining in most states, with the exception of New York City.

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A state court judge sided with Erie County’s restaurants and issued an injunction that now allows facilities in the Buffalo area to reopen indoor dining at half capacity. In response, the state announced that all regions currently facing the same restrictions as Erie County’s color-coded Cluster Action Initiative in New York will be able to reopen at 50 percent utilization.

“We disagree with the court’s decision and its public health implications as the federal CDC data clearly shows that the spread of Covid-19 is increasing indoors,” Kumiki Gibson, attorney for Governor Cuomo, said in an explanation. “We are reviewing the decision. While this process is in progress to ensure consistency and fairness, all restaurants that operate in orange zones can now operate under the yellow zone rules. “

Cuomo unveiled the latest guidelines for the Cluster Action Initiative on Dec. 10, explaining how regions of the state would trigger lifestyle restrictions after certain thresholds for positive tests and hospital capacity were exceeded. Areas would be coded red if they were “21 days before 90 percent hospital capacity is reached at the current 7-day growth rate”. This means that there are no gatherings in residential areas, no more than 10 people in churches, shops are closed and restaurants are only able to take out or deliver. Orange, considered Erie County, had fewer restrictions, but the state still banned indoor eating.

The story goes on

For the Erie County lawsuit, the nearly 100 restaurants involved used state data to question the effectiveness of indoor bans. In data released on December 11, New York attributed 1.43 percent of Covid-19 cases to food from September through November. During this time, private get-togethers made up the vast majority of the spread – nearly 75 percent, according to contract tracking data. The judge ruled that the state had not justified increased restrictions with sufficient evidence to support his actions, and so issued the restraining order.

Easing the ban across the state won’t help restaurants in the five boroughs right now, as the Cuomo government sees New York City as a special case due to its population density. This decision was severely reprimanded by the New York City Hospitality Alliance. Executive Director Andrew Rigie issued a statement describing Cuomo’s decision as “outrageous and destructive”. He said there is currently no solid foundation for banning indoor restaurants if neighboring cities and towns can continue, even though those places have worse infection and hospital occupancy rates than New York City. Rigie ended his testimony with the words: “The continuation of the ban on restaurants in New York City is separated from all dates and criteria formulated by the state and must now be ended.”

For now, at least, Cuomo is showing no sign of listening to this request.

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