Phase 4 won't include new indoor activity; non-compliant NYC bars, eateries could be shut down: Cuomo

Maya Rajamani
July 16, 2020 - 12:14 pm

    NEW YORK (1010 WINS) -- New York City is on track to enter Phase 4 on Monday, but the new stage won’t include any new indoor activities, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday — shortly after announcing a "three strikes and you're closed" policy for non-compliant bars and restaurants in the five boroughs.

    In a conference call with reporters Thursday morning, Cuomo said the state will decide whether or not the city can enter Phase 4 by 4 p.m. on Friday. If the city does enter Phase 4 on Monday, July 20, however, New Yorkers should not expect cultural institutions or shopping malls to reopen.

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    "If we go into Phase 4, we would go into Phase 4 without any additional indoor activity," the governor said. “We are still seeing issues, not just in the bars and restaurants, but all across the country, you’re seeing these inside, interior spaces, air-conditioned spaces, where the virus is tending to spread."

    Cultural institutions including the Metropolitan Museum of Art have announced plans to reopen next month; the Met, for one, has set an Aug. 29 reopening date. Asked about the Met's announcement, Cuomo said all the museum could do currently was "plan to reopen."

    “Nobody can answer, today, what the COVID virus will be doing a month from today,” he said. “Let people plan, get ready, make arrangements, and then we’ll see what happens."

    Cuomo on Thursday also announced several new rules that will affect restaurants and bars in New York City. Any establishment that receives three violations will be "closed for business," he said, describing the crackdown as a "three strikes and you're closed" policy.

    "Egregious violations" will result in the "immediate loss of a liquor license." The state will post the names of establishments facing disciplinary charges online, he said. 

    “There is significant evidence of failure to comply,” he said, noting that the state has found "many cases of failure to comply" in its survey of approximately 5,000 downstate New York venues. "New Yorkers are outraged at these establishments. We’re getting thousands of complaints, pictures, videos, et cetera."

    In addition, bars and restaurants in New York City will only be allowed to serve alcohol to patrons who are also ordering food, effective immediately, Cuomo said. Venues will also be barred from offering walk-up bar service, he said.

    “All service must be only for seated patrons who are socially distanced by six feet," he said. “This is a question of public health. And New Yorkers paid a dear price for COVID, and they are equally upset with these violations."

    Customers will still be allowed to order drinks to-go, provided they also order food, Cuomo senior advisor Rich Azzopardi clarified in a tweet. 

    Asked about business owners' concerns over the new rules during a subsequent conference call Thursday afternoon, Cuomo said the state never intended to open "block party bars" when it approved outdoor dining in New York City.

    "We were not opening outdoor bars, we were opening outdoor dining," he said. “Which means people come to eat, which means people would go sit at a table, stay at the table, only be exposed to the people at the table, and the tables were socially distanced.”

    "We did not approve outdoor bars where you set up tables for people to place drinks, and then you have 100 people mingling outside, in a block party format," he added. “That is the exact behavior that we’re seeing all across the nation that is causing an increase in the virus.”

    Fourteen New Yorkers died of COVID-19 on Wednesday, and 769 tested positive, out of 72,685 who were tested, Cuomo said Thursday. The state has now reported a total of 25,014 COVID-19 deaths and 404,775 cases. 

    As of Wednesday, 813 state residents were hospitalized with COVID-19, down by 18 from Tuesday. Here is the breakdown of COVID-19 positivity rates by region: