Indoor dining will once again be barred in New York City restaurants starting on Monday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced on Friday, a significant reversal of the city’s reopening that comes as officials try to halt the escalation of a second wave of the coronavirus.
The decision, which Mr. Cuomo earlier this week suggested was all but certain, is a crushing blow to the city’s restaurant industry, a vital economic pillar that has been struggling all year in the face of pandemic restrictions and a national recession.
For months, New York City’s restaurant owners have warned that their businesses, many of which operate on tight margins in the best of times, are on the edge of financial collapse. Thousands of employees, many of them low-wage workers, have been laid off since March, and their jobs have yet to fully return.
The industry’s anxieties are only mounting as winter approaches and frigid temperatures threaten to deter customers from dining outdoors. Industry groups have called repeatedly for federal or state financial assistance, with restaurant and bar owners watching nervously as stimulus talks drag on in Washington.
“Another forced government closure of New York City restaurants will cause an irreversible harm on even countless more small businesses and the hundreds of thousands of workers they employ, especially if it is not coupled with financial relief,” Andrew Rigie, the executive director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance, said in a statement on Monday.
Mr. Cuomo’s announcement came after weeks of shifting messages on indoor dining, which resumed in New York City only at the end of September.
As cases of the virus rose across the state this fall, Mr. Cuomo hesitated to impose the widespread restrictions that he implemented in March, when he limited restaurants and bars to takeout and delivery.
In October, the governor said he would shutter indoor dining only in the hardest-hit areas in the state, so-called microclusters. He briefly changed course in late November, saying he would shut down indoor dining citywide if the seven-day average test positivity rate hit 3 percent. Then about a week later, he walked back that statement.
The scattershot approach, which confused residents and business owners alike, came as Mr. Cuomo repeatedly downplayed indoor dining as a source of new infections, and focused his attention on parties and other indoor gatherings instead.
But on Monday, Mr. Cuomo had warned that he would curb indoor dining in regions where hospitalizations did not stabilize, citing guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that described eating at indoor restaurants as a “particularly high-risk” activity.
Then, on Wednesday, one of the governor’s top aides, Robert Mujica, said during a news conference that restaurants and bars ranked as the fifth or sixth main source of new infections in the state and were the fastest growing category contributing to the virus’s spread.
On Friday, Mr. Cuomo said contact tracing data showed that 1.43 percent of 46,000 cases between September and November could be linked to restaurants and bars.
Luis Ferré-Sadurní contributed reporting.