Cuomo to New York City restaurants: drop dead.
This is the unmistakable message from Gov. Andrew Cuomo to the cornerstone dining industry in America’s premier city.
Thankfully, Cuomo’s veritable kiss of death for these establishments is earning him nothing but rotten tomatoes. Cuomo is being fricasseed like a cartoon rabbit for his policy on Gotham’s eateries. New Yorkers across the political spectrum are baffled and revolted at his treatment of these signature local enterprises. Cuomo deserves every spoon of hot gravy ladled down his back.
The Emperor of the Empire State has unleashed a policy that makes zero scientific, meteorological, or economic sense. Aside from that, it couldn’t be more brilliant.
On Monday December 14, Emperor Cuomo decreed that there would be no more indoor dining in New York City’s restaurants. This supposedly is designed to stymie rising COVID-19 infections and ease the growing pressure on local hospitals.
There’s just one problem with this approach: despite Democrats’ claims to be pro-science (while insisting that superstitious Republicans worship snakes), Cuomo’s policy defies science at best and kneecaps it at worst.
With indoor dining now verboten, Cuomo is steering people from restaurants (the source of 1.4 percent of COVID-19 cases, according to contact-tracing data) toward the dining rooms and kitchen tables of relatives, friends and loved ones. That’s touching. Alas, from September through November, household/social gatherings caused 73.8 percent of COVID-19 diagnoses. Indeed, such events were the No. 1 cause of China-virus transmission!
This is no surprise. Home get-togethers (often in smaller spaces with poorer ventilation, few if any air filters and little if any mask wearing by those cooking and serving food and drinks) are less healthy than restaurants (usually in more spacious settings, with commercial air conditioning, new air filters and masked waiters, waitresses, chefs and bartenders). Most home tables are cleaned occasionally. Workers swab restaurant tables with Lysol between patrons.
The magnitude of this safety gap is a surprise: breakfasts, lunches and dinners in private homes are 52.7 times likelier to cause COVID-19 infections than are meals in restaurants. This difference is not close. It’s jaw dropping.
So, with apologies to the boneheaded, Cuomo’s boneheaded policy is herding dissatisfied diners from low-risk eateries to high-risk home events. This will increase COVID-19 patients while slashing the numbers of paid customers in New York City’s bludgeoned restaurants. Hospitals will fill as dining spots go belly up.
This policy is beyond idiotic. But it reflects the iron will of Emperor Cuomo.
So let it be written. So let it be done.
Don’t worry, Cuomo reassured restaurateurs. You still have outdoor dining.
As if Mother Nature herself gave Cuomo a Bronx cheer, a snowy Nor’easter on Wednesday plunged temperatures into the 20s and brought
10.5 inches of the white stuff to Central Park that afternoon into mid-day Thursday.
Not to be outdone, the city’s Department of Sanitation halted outdoor dining as of Wednesday at 2:00 p.m. This looked like yet another railroad spike in the nail-filled coffin of New York’s dining industry. Thankfully, this insult upon blunt-instrument trauma was temporary. But who knows what folly will blow in with the next storm?
Although al fresco noshing returned, once the snow stopped, these pickings are slim, or worse. Cuomo’s rubout of indoor dining would be bad enough if this were late winter, with spring around the corner. Warmer temperatures would foreshadow meals on sidewalks, with attendant revenue growing as the crocuses and tulips pierce the soil and climb toward brighter, milder sunshine.
However, Cuomo’s body blow landed in the last week of autumn, and winter happened to arrive today at 5:02 a.m. Eastern time. Outdoor dining will be anything but appetizing until April.
That said, some hearty souls carry on, despite the chill. Clad in winter jackets and layered up, Armand Huribal and Will McArdle savored dark beers Sunday afternoon in an open-air shed at McSorley’s Old Ale House, established 1854. These two Connecticut residents were comforted by a heater overhead and another that blasted warm air on their feet. It resembled a small rocket engine and was attached to a propane tank. Meanwhile, the Americana-filled bar just steps away, which has served light and dark beer to visitors for 166 years, is off limits, save for quick, masked bathroom stops. The idiotic policies that necessitate such steps are appalling, but the private sector’s capacity to adapt, as has this beloved landmark, would impress even Charles Darwin.
The mercy of patrons in parkas aside, the only other cash flow for embattled restaurants is what OpenTable glamorously calls ‘dine-at-home’ options. Most folks say ‘take-out’. Bagged food might give a venue a barely discernible pulse. For many others, such income won’t be nearly the defibrillation that they need.
Cuomo’s policy also fails economically. It slashes revenue for restaurants while also giving New Yorkers no incentives to shift their dining from unhealthy home sit-downs to healthier restaurants. Cuomo’s brainstorm will boost COVID infections (which will hike public-health expenditures), slash restaurant sales (and chop business-tax revenue), swell joblessness among restaurant workers (and balloon public-assistance outlays) and stimulate restaurant failures, as befell the relatively new Mi Garba on my block and the legendary 21 Club, launched in 1930 as a speakeasy. This will slice tax revenues from wages, profits and rents. This is uniformly dreadful for personal, commercial and governmental finances.
All this from the man whose deliberate policies and decisions wheeled COVID-19-positive senior citizens into nursing homes in the spring. The result? Previously uninfected elder-care facilities became overrun with the China virus, needlessly killing an estimated 11,000 older Americans. Cuomo idiotically did this even as 818 of the 1,000 beds on the hospital ship USNS Comfort stayed empty, as did some 3,000 beds at the pop-up medical facility at Manhattan’s Javits Center.
Rather than quarantine COVID-tainted seniors at those venues for two weeks each, before returning or assigning them to nursing homes, Cuomo sped them straight into elder-care centers, forced these establishments to accept those sick people, forbade them to test arriving residents, and — until April 30 — allowed COVID-19-positive people to work in nursing homes.
Cuomo should be arrested for negligent homicide. Instead, his reign of toxic error continues, now festooned with an Emmy Award for his TV press conferences and a book in which he sings the praises of his own geronticidal failures.
Emperor Cuomo needs to execute a massive, public and total U-turn. There’s no dishonor in reversing a chariot as soon as one realizes it’s careening the wrong way.
Cuomo should immediately:
- Reopen restaurants for indoor dining in New York State
- Allow at least 50 percent capacity indoors in New York City
- Leave outdoor dining alone. Let hearty souls untroubled by the winter cold eat in peace
- Ease approvals for overhead and floor-level space heaters
- Free restaurateurs to operate as late as they wish. The China virus does not become more voracious at 10:01 p.m. So, why the hell did Cuomo force restaurants to close at 10:00 p.m., before he whacked indoor service? This makes zero sense
- Encourage New Yorkers to eat and entertain less at home and more in far healthier restaurants. Public-service ads should educate Gothamites to practice this counter-intuitive behavior
- Create an incentive to make this more affordable: suspend the sales tax on restaurant meals until Tax Day — April 15
These sensible reforms will help New York’s eateries survive what looks to be a cruel, cruel winter — with indoors shuttered and outdoors shivering.