New York City to Resume Indoor Dining but Restaurant Workers Aren't Eligible for COVID Vaccine

New Yorkers will be able to dine indoors again starting next month, but only at restaurants with limited capacity.

Governor Andrew Cuomo made the highly anticipated announcement during a press conference on Friday. The Democrat said restaurants in New York City can reopen for indoor seating on February 14 but must maintain 25 percent capacity.

"The restaurants want a period of time so they can notify workers, they can get up to speed for indoor dining," Cuomo said.

Restaurants in New York City have been prohibited from allowing patrons to eat inside since mid-December—a decision intended to slow a second wave of the coronavirus outbreak ahead of the holiday season. The ban was a major blow to the struggling restaurant industry.

The governor reiterated his stance in a Twitter post, writing that in addition to limited capacity, "mandatory safety guidelines" will be put into place.

Update on indoor dining in NYC:

If positivity rates hold we will reopen indoor dining at 25% capacity on Valentine's Day - February 14.

In addition to reduced capacity, mandatory safety guidelines will be in place.

— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) January 29, 2021

But there's one major problem: Restaurant workers are not currently eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccination.

New York state is in Phase 1b of its vaccination plan, under which people 65 and older, first responders, public safety officers, teachers, transit workers and public-facing grocery store workers are eligible. The list of eligible groups contained in a press release from the governor's office does not mention food service workers.

It's unclear when restaurant workers will be eligible, though some reports say they may have to wait until Phase 4.

Earlier this month, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio urged the state to expand the pool of vaccine-eligible people to include food delivery workers, bodega staff and deli employees.

Just before Cuomo's announcement on Friday, de Blasio expressed concern about new strains of the virus and the dwindling vaccine supply, but he said he understood the desire to reopen struggling businesses.

"The whole idea here is to try to strike the right balance, and I know the governor is trying to do it," the mayor said.

The different phases of COVID-19 vaccine distribution are determined by New York state, not the city. Newsweek contacted the governor's office for comment on when restaurant workers can expect to be eligible for vaccination, given the reopening of indoor dining, but did not hear back before publication.

Cuomo also announced Friday that he intends to allow weddings at reopened venues in the coming weeks, though guests will likely have to receive a rapid coronavirus test before the event.

"You could make a reservation now or plan dinner on Valentine's Day, you propose on Valentine's Day, and then you can have the wedding ceremony March 15, up to 150 people," the governor said. "People will actually come to your wedding because you can tell them with the testing it will be safe. Everyone there will have been tested."

new york city indoor dining announcement
Waiters set a table at the Smith restaurant on New York's Upper West Side on December 31, 2020. Governor Andrew Cuomo said restaurants in New York City can reopen for indoor seating on February 14, but only at 25 percent capacity. Noam Galai/Getty