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New York, restaurantes, toque de queda

Cuomo Sends New York, the “City that Never Sleeps”, to Sleep

New York authorities, unable to stop contagion throughout 2020, are shutting down New York

[Leer en español]

Do you remember when as children our parents used to force us to go to bed before ten o’clock at night? Well, something similar happens in New York with the curfew. The city that never sleeps now is forced to go to bed early.  

A story by journalist Jennifer Gould for the New York Post dimensions what the curfew imposed by its Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo means for the so-called capital of the world: “Big Apple restaurant owners say revenues fell by about 30 percent over the weekend, as they were forced to comply with the governor’s latest efforts to curb the rise in coronavirus cases,” the article says.

Just as we grumbled as children against our parents for sending us to bed early, without the right of reply, the same happens with customers eager to spend a long and quiet evening in the restaurants of the Big Apple: “We tell them they have to leave before 10 p.m. but it is definitely uncomfortable. There are always a couple of people who leave. We try to be hospitable, but it’s like we’re taking people out, we can’t risk a $10,000 fine. We’re struggling to stay afloat,” Erin Bellard, owner of e’s BAR on the Upper West Side, told the New York Post.

It sounds tragicomic. Being forced to go home at a certain time is a very heavy schedule, limiting not only the entertainment and distractions that every human being needs, but also the productivity of hundreds of thousands of individuals and families who depend on New York nightlife. Yes, we are talking about the bars, restaurants, and other businesses that are alive until late at night and that has spent, unfortunately, a calamitous year.

Another outrageous issue, besides the time restriction, is the fine. 10,000 dollars of punishment —the right word because that’s what it is— for a business that simply tries to stay afloat in the midst of a pandemic is exaggerated. Unlike discos, restaurants can implement a series of sanitary measures that comply with health protocols.

But the authorities seem to be ignoring this. According to the New York Post, “Before the 10 p.m. curfew, restaurants had been allowed to stay open outside until 11 p.m. and inside until midnight. They were also allowed to let customers stay for a half hour or so to finish their meals and pay the bills,” not anymore.

The same article explains that the new curfew being implemented is much more “harsh” on their terms. Restaurants, for example, are forced to close their kitchens between nine and ten-thirty at night. This leaves little time to dine in peace and, of course, reduces the salary of workers who also see their service hours quite limited. In other words, a whole chain that affects everything from the restaurant owner, through the workers —chefs, cooks, waiters, etc.— to the customers themselves who can’t even get the best service they always deserve.

The imposition of the curfew is controversial, in Belgium, for example, although the restrictive measure affects individual liberties —with all that that implies— and also hits the economy, there is an improvement in the decrease of contagion, at least.

Now, in Europe, this curfew is better thought out than in New York. Because it only arrives at midnight, that is, it gives diners the possibility of enjoying their dinner with relative tranquility and the restaurants, at least, have two more hours of productivity and logistical capacity to prepare the night schedules.

In fact, in New York, according to the NYP, restaurant owners themselves have complained about the way the curfew is being implemented. Instead of promoting social distancing, with the time restrictions so marked, there is more crowding at peak dinner times. This is producing an effect contrary to what is intended: to stop contagion.

New York, Restaurantes, Toque de queda
Pizzeria in eastern New York during COVID-19. (Flickr)
Curfew and restrictive measures in New York

After having reached a positivity rate of 2.93%, last Wednesday, November 11, Governor Cuomo announced a series of restrictive measures to try to stop the wave of contagion that included this curfew for bars, restaurants and gyms.

One of the impositions is that private meetings cannot exceed ten people. Infobae reports that “the new measures, which will take effect on Friday, came a day after California and several Midwestern states tightened restrictions on residents on Tuesday to try to slow the rapid spread of the virus.” That is, they follow the line of other states that also implemented restrictive measures.

In addition, the new announcements were accompanied by a series of recommendations for Christmas. “The data” provided go from virtual dinners, purchases by the Internet and that the carols are in the streets, but with social distance. The usual religious celebrations also represent, for the authorities, a danger of contagion. For that reason they recommend that it is made via online.

The New York authorities, unable to stop the contagion during all the 2020, are turning off New York. First by sending her to bed early and then by looking forward to an unprecedented Christmas: away from loved ones. Hopefully, the illusion of a new vaccine —which seems to come soon— will go from being a ray of hope to a reality.

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