Justin Ahiyon in front of his restaurant, Queen. Photo: Miranda Levingston for The BK Reader.
Justin Ahiyon in front of his restaurant, Queen. Photo: Miranda Levingston for The BK Reader.

After six months of uncertainty, indoor dining is back on the menu for Brooklyn restaurants.

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced restaurants can open for indoor service starting on Sept. 30, with strict protocols to ensure the safety of patrons.  Restaurants will be allowed to operate at 25 percent capacity indoors and temperature checks for all customers will be enforced. Masks must be worn when diners are not seated and tables must be six feet apart.

Nicole Champion, the general manager of Sea Wolf — a beachy joint with locations in Bushwick and Williamsburg, said although the industry was ready for it and she felt safe for now, she worried about the potential spike in cases even if restaurants follow all the safety protocols.

“My biggest concern is the infection rate rising and going back to us closing down, getting sick, dying,” Champion said. 

“Wyckoff hospital is right near here and it was really scary to have the doctors and nurses that are regulars come down here and share their experiences.”

Data shows outbreaks of COVID-19 have been traced to bars and restaurants in other parts of the country that moved forward with modified indoor dining plans, even when practicing all the recommended prevention methods.

In New York City, restaurants will be expected to operate with enhanced air filtration, ventilation and purification standards and at least one customer from each party must provide contact information for tracing, if needed.

“As restaurant and bar owners and operators we know how to adhere to city and state guidelines around hygiene, food safety, sanitizing, occupancy and much more,” Tanoreen owner Jumana Bishara said in a statement. Tanoreen is a popular Middle Eastern eatery in Bay Ridge.

Unfortunately for night owls, all restaurants must close at midnight and there will be no bar service. Bars will only be used to make drinks to serve tableside along with food.

Justin Ahiyon, the owner of the Mediterranean hangout Queen, said he was eager to keep everyone safe. He was concerned about whether or not the city would allow to-go alcohol purchases without also ordering food, since that was keeping his business, and employees, afloat.

“No restaurant can be sustained with 25 percent capacity,” Ahiyon said. “The biggest fear I have is [the city] taking away alcohol to-go, and alcohol for delivery, which ends on October 4. That was a real boon and really helped all of us in the industry.”

Queen is the sister restaurant of the legendary nightclub House of Yes, which was recently shuttered for misunderstanding the rule requiring venues to serve food with alcohol. 

Outdoor dining will continue until September 30, when the fall chill is likely to put a damper on curb-side seating. With the state’s infection rate below 1 percent for several weeks in a row, the mayor and the governor are easing some restrictions. If New York City hits 2% in COVID-19 positivity rates, the City will immediately reassess.

The Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce is issuing grants for deep cleanings and thermometers, sponsored by the Bring Back Brooklyn Fund and New York-Presbyterian.

“Brooklyn’s restaurant industry is essential to the borough’s economic recovery, and safely reopening indoor dining will help these small businesses pay rent, predict and plan for the future and rehire staff,” BCC President and CEO Randy Peers said.

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Miranda Levingston

Covering everything Brooklyn. Twitter: @MLevNews

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