Thousands of places know that their customers are still nervous about catching the coronavirus indoors despite the city’s low infection rate — so they’re going the last mile to make the eating experience as safe as it can be.
At Asian jumbo Buddakan at 75 Ninth Ave. in Chelsea, managers will have 6-foot-long poles handy to show that tables are properly spaced under state and city rules if customers or inspectors complain. “The pole doesn’t lie,” said owner Stephen Starr.
Bluestone Lanes’ Kenmare Street and Greenwich Avenue locations installed “Far-UVC technology,” a type of ultraviolet light, to inactivate bacteria and viruses on clothing to augment the coffee cafes’ air-filtration systems.
Williamsburg’s massive Ainslie saved its communal tables from extinction by limiting them to eight customers each and separating parties with moveable Plexiglas dividers — although it might make thing less communal.
All of the eateries will abide by strict legal requirements. They include a maximum of 25% of legal capacity, enhanced air-filtration systems, temperature checks for customers, masks to be worn at all times except when at tables, and a midnight curfew.
Bad news for boozers, but good news for everyone’s safety: There’ll be no service at bars inside the restaurants, although there are no drink restrictions at tables.
There’s no firm count of how many places will be open indoors. But Andrew Rigie, executive director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance, said that most of the 10,300 restaurants that have had outdoor dining since last summer would reopen their doors.
Some exalted eateries won’t join the party just yet. Top-rated steakhouse Porter House New York at Time Warner Center will wait until the state allows 50% capacity hopefully by Nov. 1, said chef/owner Michael Lomonaco. “The numbers just didn’t work for us at 25%,” he said.
Also sitting it out is Keith McNally’s iconic Balthazar, which will reopen “as soon as possible,” a rep said.
But it’s full-speed-ahead at most, but not all, places run by top restaurateurs such as Stephen Starr, Danny Meyer, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Daniel Boulud and Shelly Fireman.
At Starr’s Buddakan, Upland, Pastis, El Vez and La Mercerie, “We’re following the letter of the law,” he said. He has practice: His Philadelphia restaurants have been serving inside for months under rules similar to New York’s without a problem.
Eric Ripert’s three-Michelin-star Le Bernardin is almost fully booked for two seatings nightly, or about 110 people at each seating for the next two weeks. “We have a long waiting list, too,” Ripert said.
Other owners said they won’t know how popular indoors will be for a few weeks. While some food-lovers are panting to eat indoors again, others are keeping their distance for the time being.
Gianfranco Sorrentino, managing partner of Midtown power-scene Il Gattopardo, said he has Wednesday bookings for 20 of the Italian eatery’s 70 seats it can use under the 25% rule.
“We even have some small parties for the first week in October,” he said, noting that they’ll be strictly limited in size.
Tamarind Tribeca owner Avtar Walia divided his 11,000-square-foot Indian palace into four sections on the main floor and mezzanine. “We have so much room, and we want people to be comfortable,” Walia said. “We already have 60 reservations for the first night.”