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NYC

Feature

Andrew Bui
May 18, 2021
Everything You Need To Know About NYC’s New Mask Rules & Return To 100% Restaurant Capacity
The key takeaways of NYC’s reopening, so you’ll know exactly what mask and capacity policy changes mean for you and your favorite restaurants.

At the beginning of the month, Governor Cuomo announced that the city’s restaurants and bars (as well as museums and theaters) would be allowed to reopen at full capacity indoors starting May 19th. They’ve been operating at 75% indoor capacity since May 7th.

Then on Monday of this week, the governor also said that, in accordance with the CDC’s recently-updated recommendations, vaccinated New Yorkers will no longer be required to wear masks or practice social distancing starting Wednesday, May 19th. (Regardless of vaccination status, masks must be worn on public transportation, as well as in nursing homes, schools, correctional facilities, and healthcare settings). According to data from the New York Times, 52% of New York state residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine and 42.8% are fully vaccinated.

And, as with all new government mandates and laundry in general, it’s important to understand the nuances of the rules. We wrote about the key takeaways of the latest lift on restrictions, so you’ll know exactly what these policy changes mean for you and your favorite restaurants.

Wait sorry, what’s happening on May 19th?

So you don’t read introductory paragraphs after all. We suspected this. Anyway, yes restaurants and bars can resume indoor service at full capacity for the first time since mid-March 2020. And fully vaccinated New Yorkers are no longer required to wear masks in most indoor and outdoor settings.

So should I expect to be grazing shoulders with my table neighbors like the old days?

Fortunately for all parties involved, you can keep your shoulders to yourself. Restaurants still have to follow CDC-advised prevention measures and keep six feet between each table.

Doesn’t the six-feet rule mean that tiny NYC restaurants will be able to sit approximately three tables at 100% capacity indoors?

Sort of. If distancing isn’t physically possible, a restaurant can install five-foot-high barriers between each table - which you’ve probably seen some version of already.

Do all these rules apply to vaccinated people?

On Monday, May 18th, Governor Cuomo announced that vaccinated New Yorkers are no longer required to wear masks in settings other than on public transportation (and in places like nursing homes, schools, and healthcare facilities). But he also said that “individual private venues still have the ability to add additional guidelines to the state guidelines and the CDC guidelines.” Meaning restaurants and bars can make their own rules about masking going forward (for example, Hunky Dory in Crown Heights posted on Instagram this past weekend saying they would still require masks, despite the CDC’s new guidelines). Our advice? Check in with a restaurant’s staff before you waltz around in their space unmasked.

Hypothetically, a restaurant or bar can decide to require everyone who comes in to show proof of vaccination status - and then that place wouldn’t have to keep six feet between each table.

What’s the maximum amount of people I can bring to a restaurant?

Parties are capped at 10 people per table. For anything larger, might we suggest the good ol’ park or a private dinner? Congratulations on knowing lots of people.

How late can bars and restaurants stay open now?

The 12am indoor curfew won’t be lifted until May 31st. But as of Monday, May 17th, outdoor dining and bar areas can now stay open past 12am. Although bars and restaurants are responsible for determining their own hours, so you’ll have to do some Googling depending on where you’re going (before the pandemic, many of NYC’s bars officially closed as late as 4am).

I ate many bags of chips this year at bars. Do I still have to order food with my drinks?

Nope. The days of ordering Fritos or soggy French fries with your single beer are over.

Thanks, that was helpful. Can you show me a relevant and entertaining tweet?

Sources

NYgov Food Services Guidelines

NYgov Reopening Reference Guide

Transcript Of Governor Cuomo’s Press Conference, Monday May 17th

NYT Covid Vaccine Data Tracker

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