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4 Sep, 2020 00:24

Gov. Cuomo wants 4,000-strong ‘social distancing’ enforcement unit as NYC restaurants sue for $2 BILLION over indoor dining ban

Gov. Cuomo wants 4,000-strong ‘social distancing’ enforcement unit as NYC restaurants sue for $2 BILLION over indoor dining ban

Governor Andrew Cuomo said he would only allow indoor dining to resume in New York City if the NYPD sets up a task force to enforce social distancing rules, as restaurants sue authorities for $2 billion, citing “irreparable harm.”

Cuomo addressed reopening businesses in NYC and elsewhere during a press call on Thursday, saying “compliance and enforcement” would drive the state’s guidance on lifting sweeping shutdowns imposed to slow the spread of the coronavirus, especially when it comes to indoor eateries.

“If we open restaurants, that's going to complicate by the hundreds if not thousands the number of establishments that have to be monitored,” Cuomo said, adding that his office would soon contact New York City officials to discuss the creation of the 4,000-person enforcement unit.

We're going to contact [City Council Speaker Corey Johnson] today and say, 'If New York City can say this many police, NYPD can be put on a task force to monitor the compliance,' that is something we can discuss.

Outdoor dining was allowed to resume under an executive order signed by Cuomo in July, but indoor establishments remain shuttered under the restrictions, which some city officials, including Johnson, have called to end as fall and winter draw near.

“It's time to allow indoor dining in New York City with reduced capacity and clear guidance to ensure social distancing and safety,” the city council speaker said in a statement on Wednesday. “Summer is winding down, and they need to begin planning for the colder months.”

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Citing a city council spokesperson, Reason magazine noted that Johnson agrees that social distancing must be enforced, but said he would prefer to use city agencies other than the NYPD.

While NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters on Thursday that he was looking into extending a program that allows restaurants to set up on sidewalks and even some streets, he declined to give any timeline for when indoor dining could come back, despite previously saying a decision would come this month.

“It has to be health and safety first. It has to be, how do we defeat coronavirus? That's the first consideration,” the mayor said.

Not long after Cuomo’s press call, a group of some 350 New York City restaurants filed a class action lawsuit against the governor, Mayor de Blasio and other state officials, seeking $2 billion in damages for “irreparable harm” done to the city’s food and beverage industry by government-imposed lockdowns. An Italian restaurant in Queens, Il Bacco, is leading the suit, and argues NYC’s coronavirus policies put it at a competitive disadvantage, as eateries in nearby Nassau County have been cleared for indoor dining.

Restaurants and bars have taken a beating in New York City amid the economic devastation brought by the shutdowns, with Yelp reporting that nearly 1,000 eating and drinking businesses have been forced to close their doors for good since March. New York Eater, meanwhile, estimates that nearly 20 NYC eateries went under in the first three days of September alone.

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