In a sign that things are starting to return to normal, drink lovers were finally able to return to their favorite haunts on Monday as the ban on bar seating was lifted.
Thirsty patrons packed the city’s watering holes, the first time they were able to knock back a drink bellied up to their favorite bar in over a year.
When announcing the return of bar seating last week, Governor Andrew Cuomo also said the curfew on food and beverage establishment would be lifted by May 31, with most capacity limits ending on May 19.
Patrons are still asked to follow social distance guidelines, but it’s a start.
And Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Monday that the city would fully reopen on July 1, just eight weeks from now. He said the city is making incredible progress in beating back COVID-19.
Many city residents continue to get vaccinated, and New York reached its lowest COVID rates since October over the weekend, with just 1.5 percent of residents testing positive for coronavirus.
This should be great news for the struggling restaurant and hospitality industry. But after a year of on-again, off-again closures, restarts, curfews and capacity limits, it’s going to be a long time before these struggling business owners fully recover.
In the meantime, there is more than $28 billion in pandemic relief grants now available through the Small Business Administration’s Restaurant Revitalization Fund. Online application opened Monday at noon. Restaurant owners can apply at restaurants.sba.gov.
The program will provide funding equal to pandemic-related revenue losses. The maximum grant size is $5 million for restaurants and $10 million for restaurant groups. The minimum amount is $1,000.
Recipients are not required to repay the money as long as funds are used by March 11, 2023.
Between the city reopening and these federal grants, hopefully the hospitality industry can get back on its feet and put the 300,000 New Yorkers employed in these businesses before the start of the pandemic back to work.