Feb. 8 (UPI) -- Indoor dining in New York City is back for the full Valentine's Day weekend, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday, moving forward to Friday the state's coronavirus restriction date from Sunday.
Restaurants may begin serving at 25% capacity, with other restrictions on bar service and a midnight curfew.
"The holiday surge is over," Cuomo said. "We see it in the positivity, we see it in the hospitalizations, and we respond to the data, the facts that we face today. The facts may change tomorrow, and then we will change with the facts. The enemy changes tactics, we change with the enemy, but the numbers are down now."
While the state's positivity rate is below 5%, the New York City rate is still at 8.95% over the past week, although confirmed cases, hospitalizations and deaths in New York City are on a downward trend, the city's health department data shows.
"Today we commend Governor Cuomo for announcing that indoor dining may resume at 25% occupancy at New York City restaurants starting on Friday, February 12th, instead of Sunday, February 14th the originally scheduled date," said a statement from the NYC Hospitality Alliance, that represents restaurants in the city.
In Chinatown, restaurant owners also asked to be allowed to open earlier in the week to serve visitors celebrating the Lunar New Year.
However, city council members and restaurant owners are still pushing for 50% occupancy as indoor dining begins.
"Thousands of small businesses have shut, countless more are teetering on the edge of survival, and over 140,000 New Yorkers who worked in our city's restaurants pre-pandemic have lost their jobs," the group said Monday. "We need to safely increase occupancy to 50% ASAP, especially when New York City has lower infection and hospitalization rates than nearly all counties in the rest of the state where indoor dining is open at 50% occupancy."
Bitter cold and snow in New York have made outdoor dining and even delivery and pick up from restaurants more difficult, putting more financial pressure on small businesses just holding on, the organization said.
Indoor dining was shut down in March in New York City as the city experienced the highest levels of COVID-19 infection. It reopened briefly in September, only to be shut down again until last week, when Cuomo announced loosening of restrictions to be open by Valentine's Day.