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State lawmakers roll back COVID-19 rules on restaurants, bars, caterers

Relief is on the way for Queens restaurants, bars, and caterers who are welcoming the rollback of COVID-19 restrictions. (QNS/File)

Restaurants and bars across Queens struggling to remain in businesses will get relief as the state Legislature rolls back several of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.

State Senator Michael Gianaris announced Wednesday, April 28, that the repeal of these directives will enhance the quality of life and relieve the burdens on small businesses and patrons.

“When public health guidelines were first put in place, many were needed to save lives and stop the spread of COVID-19,” said Gianaris, the Senate deputy leader. “Now as we see the light at the end of the tunnel and success in vaccinating more and more people, we need to start taking action to get our small business economy back to work. I am pleased to work with the great small businesses of western Queens to provide this type of much-needed relief.”

Included in these repeals are food sales in bars and restaurants that will no longer be required with alcoholic beverage purchases.

“Our restaurants and bars have worked hard to maintain compliance with changing mandates throughout the pandemic and to provide essential services to our communities. But the ‘food with alcohol’ rule was especially arbitrary and disconnected from our understanding of COVID spread and risks,” Sunnyside Shines Executive Director Jamie Faye Bean said. “We are happy to see this repealed and appreciate the action of our representatives in making it happen.”

The mandate became derisively known as the “Cuomo Chips” rule among angry tavern owners.

“Restaurants and small businesses have been suffering from so many rules related to the COVID situation,” Katch Astoria Owner Roseann McSorley said. “It’s great that this one has been lifted — we have lost so many customers who sometimes just want to come out for a drink and can’t do so.”

Cuomo announced that the midnight food and beverage service curfew will be lifted for outdoor dining areas beginning May 17 and for indoor dining areas beginning May 31. He also announced that starting May 3, seating at bars will be allowed in New York City, consistent with the food service guidelines that are in effect statewide.

“We know the COVID positivity rate is a function of our behavior, and over the last year, New Yorkers have remained disciplined and continued with the practices we know work to stop the spread of the virus,” Cuomo said. “Everything that we’ve been doing is working — and all the arrows are pointing in the right direction and now we’re able to increase economic activity even more.”

He added that the 1 a.m. curfew for catered events where attendees have provided proof of vaccination status or a recent negative CODID-19 test result will be lifted beginning May 17, with the curfew for all catered events to be lifted May 31.

“Lifting these restrictions for restaurants, bars and catering companies will allow these businesses that have been devastated by the pandemic to begin to recover as we return to a new normal in the post-pandemic world,” Cuomo said. “To be clear: we will only be able to maintain this progress if everyone gets the COVID vaccine. It is the weapon that will win the war and we need everyone to take it; otherwise we risk going backward.”

The mandate’s repeal was welcome news for businesses that have been impacted across the five boroughs.

“New York City’s restaurants and bars have been financially devastated by COVID-19 restrictions and it’s great news that the state will finally undo the barstool ban and lift the arbitrary midnight curfew,” NYC Hospitality Alliance Executive Director Andrew Rigie said. “These outdated policies made it too difficult for too many small business owners and workers to support themselves and their families, and were a grave inconvenience to customers. Lifting these restrictions is an important step forward for restaurants and bars across New York City, and we will continue working with the state to safely and completely reopen our hospitality industry, bring back jobs and sustain small businesses.”

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