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Big Apple eatery owners — already struggling to cope with a second shutdown of indoor dining amid the coronavirus pandemic — were thrown into a panic Thursday night when the Cuomo administration dropped new rules that barred patrons in outdoor spaces from using their indoor bathrooms.
The initial guidance, released publicly by Kapil Longani, counsel to Mayor Bill de Blasio, stated that “customers are not allowed to enter the inside of an SLA-licensed establishment for any reason while the guidance is in effect.”
To the dismay of some eatery owners, the guidance indicated that even the bathrooms would be off-limits.
“If my SLA-licensed establishment is offering outdoor dining, may I allow customers to use the bathroom inside?” reads one of the questions on the document.
“No,” the reply states. “Customers may not enter the inside of the establishment for any reason.”
The regulation threw one city restaurant, Il Posto Accanto on the Lower East Side, into a tailspin.
“The NYSLA new guidance for indoor dining states that customers may not enter the restaurant to use the restroom!!!” said a post on the eatery’s Instagram page. “Please Contact Governor Cuomo and all of our elected officials….This is not human!!!!!”
Andrew Rigie, executive director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance, blasted the guidance as “another example of why restaurants and bars feel like government is purposely kicking them in the gut and then stopping on their hand when they’re already down.”
“This is absurd and must be fixed ASAP,” he tweeted.
But Rigie confirmed to the Post Friday morning that the guidance was changed by the State Liquor Authority overnight, albeit very quietly and buried in a question and answer section.
“Customers can now use the bathroom and can enter through the interior to get to a backyard etc.,” he said. “We’re working on addressing issues.”
That update appeared on the State Liquor Authority website, in the Q & A section of a page explaining the closure of indoor dining.
“I am a licensee with on premises service privileges and restricted from permitting indoor dining, may patrons use the restrooms?” the question states.
“Yes, restrooms may of course be used,” the reply says smugly, eschewing the mass confusion caused by the SLA order. “Patrons must wear face coverings, and may not linger or form lines, which would be noncompliant interior use.”
Meanwhile, the guidance also states that patrons may not pick up food or beverages inside establishments — and that pick-up should happen curbside or through a window.
Employees and owners may not drink alcoholic beverages inside establishments “under any circumstances, or will be considered patrons for purposes of enforcement.”
They also may not consume meals or non-alcoholic beverages in areas meant for the public, including the dining room or bar — and are not permitted to eat together in groups.
The guidance also outlines that in order to qualify as outdoor dining, structures must have “two sides which are open air.”
“A structure with one open side or no open sides is considered inside space and may not be used during the effectiveness of this guidance,” the memo states, adding that “sides are not considered open if covered with clear plastic or other materials that restrict air flow.”
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