New York City will soon allow indoor dining in restaurants, officials said Wednesday, as economic pressure mounted to lift coronavirus curbs in America's largest metropolis.
The city -- once the epicenter of pandemic in the United States -- has seen steadily declining case numbers for weeks, but authorities had held off green-lighting indoor restaurants over concerns of another outbreak.
"Restaurants pose a possible risk with the concentration of people inside with indoor dining -- but there's also a great economic loss when they don't operate," New York state Governor Andrew Cuomo told journalists Wednesday.
The easing of restrictions will come September 30 as outdoor temperatures cool, with restaurants allowed to fill 25 percent of their indoor tables.
The re-opening plan will be more strict that elsewhere in the state, where restaurants can operate indoors with 50 percent capacity.
Temperature checks will be required at the door, and no indoor dining establishment will be allowed open after midnight. Bar service will also be prohibited.
Diners must wear masks when they aren't seated, and each party will be required to provide contact information for possible contact tracing.
Since June 22, businesses serving food in New York have been allowed to serve customers outside.
City officials granted hundreds of permits so restaurants could create or increase their outdoor space.
But on Tuesday several restaurant owners in the city filed suit seeking the right to reopen indoor dining, arguing that the infection rate there is low and that all other counties in New York state had already lifted curbs.
Many elected officials on both sides of the political spectrum -- including President Donald Trump -- had urged the re-opening of the city's restaurants indoors.
As late as Tuesday Cuomo had ruled out indoor dining in the city in the short-term, saying it would be "negligent and reckless."
According to a New York Times study, based on data from crowdsourced review site Yelp, nearly 900 restaurants have closed since the start of the pandemic.
Nearly two-thirds of all restaurants still operating in the state say they will have to shut down by year's end if they don't get federal aid, according to a poll published last week.