You see your favorite neighborhood eatery dismantle its outdoor dining contraption as winter’s chill sets in and wonder if the place can survive on a meager 25 percent of regular indoor capacity.
Probably not. Certainly not with the staff and service it offered before. And now it could lose even the ability to fill five out of every 20 seats, as the novel coronavirus continues to surge after its summer break.
The situation here is nothing like it was in the spring — yet. But positive tests, hospitalizations and deaths are all creeping up, and the next nonhuman casualty could be indoor dining. Gov. Cuomo said Monday he may shut it down as soon as Saturday if hospitalization rates don’t turn around by then.
The most recent seven-day average for new hospitalizations in the city was 142 people. That’s nothing compared to the April 3 peak of 1,676. But it’s more than thrice the 41 of Sept. 30, when indoor dining finally reopened.
This page has supported small businesses in particular throughout the pandemic, as long as they could operate safely. But it’s hard to see how indoor dining can continue. Mayor de Blasio warned weeks ago that he expected it to shut down soon and now Cuomo has made it clear that the end is almost surely near.
Thousands of restaurants in Queens alone, and tens of thousands of jobs, will be lost without specific, targeted aid that only the federal government can deliver. The city and state don’t have the money. What we need, as talks on a new economic stimulus package go on (and on, and on) is another round of the highly successful Paycheck Protection Program. Let these eateries, and other small businesses, apply for PPP loans to keep paying their employees and certain other expenses. The PPP can be tweaked to fix the flaws of its first round, when some big companies got money too, but it must be restarted, or it’ll be closing time for too many of our restaurants.