New York City dwellers shouldn't hold their breath for the immediate return of indoor dining, but next week its small handful of malls can reopen, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced.
During dueling press conferences Thursday morning, both Cuomo — who announced city malls can reopen at half capacity on September 9 — and Mayor Bill de Blasio asserted the decision to reopen restaurants was theirs, although both agreed New York City wasn't yet ready.
“I’d like to see the restaurants open," Cuomo said. "That’s a decision the state will make."
While de Blasio argued the health risks were too high, Cuomo said restaurants could reopen safely if it weren't for the city's inability to enforce social distancing.
“We have major problems in New York City with the compliance on the bars," Cuomo said. “My opinion is [restaurants] should open, the question is how?”
The governor appears to have sidestepped de Blasio to enter into discussions with City Council Speaker Corey Johnson — who, unlike Mayor Bill de Blasio, supports a return to indoor dining in New York City — about assembling a task force to perform restaurant compliance checks.
But whereas Cuomo would have about 4,000 NYPD cops monitoring compliance, Johnson would prefer another city agency enforce the rules.
“The Speaker is talking to the Governor about how we can help bring indoor dining to the five boroughs," a spokesperson confirmed.
De Blasio, during his own press conference, declined to comment on messages coming in from Cuomo.
"I’m not going to comment on whatever the governor says on any given day," Mayor Bill de Blasio said. "We're going to work together on this."
Instead, de Blasio put the focus on outdoor dining, noting more than 10,000 restaurants have set up tables on city sidewalks and streets, and may continue to do so through the end of October.
Restaurant owners have raised grave concerns about how business will fare in the colder months and about 300 filed a $2 billion suit against the city seeking damages resulting from the ban.
De Blasio reiterated both his pledge to give restaurant owners answers by the end of September and his objections to indoor dining.
"The health leadership of this city is very concerned about indoor dining," de Blasio said. "I want to see how we can help [restaurants], but it has to be health and safety first."