Already reeling from an impending exodus of Cornell students, Ithaca restaurants were hit with yet another obstacle on Friday: Facing a seemingly unabated rise in COVID-19 cases, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) put forth an executive order on Friday afternoon requiring all businesses in the state to limit their capacity to 50 percent going forward.
Most service workers heard about the decree shortly before the dinner rush hit, sending them scrambling to limit seating in order to comply. At Viva Taqueria, a Mexican-themed downtown restaurant, empty sour cream containers marked every other table as one that was unavailable to patrons.
“We normally have five table sections for servers, we’re down to three table sections now,” said Lexi, a hostess at Viva Taqueria, who did not want to be identified by her last name. “We took half the barstools out, but there’s nothing we can really do about people standing around the bar.”
For servers, the executive order creates a direct constraint on their earning potential. As the number of patrons is forced into decline, money earned from tips is expected to see a dramatic dip.
“I hate [the order] because we’re already gonna be strapped for trying to make bills and stuff because everybody’s afraid to go out,” said Spike Brooks, a bartender at The Chanticleer. “I understand we’re trying not to spread the disease, but [the order is] not helping anybody.”
Brooks was not alone in believing that business was already naturally cut down before Cuomo’s order. According to the bartender, fear among the general public has already kept business from being as busy as it would be sans-pandemic.
According to Lexi, the Governor’s forced reduction in capacity takes the onus off patrons to monitor their own safety.
“I sort of think that if you’re going to come out to eat, then that risk is on you,” Lexi said.
And, though The Chanticleer does not generally fill to capacity, Brooks expressed anxiety at potentially having to turn people away at the door.
“That’s just going to be a headache,” Brooks said.
But reactions to the order are mixed, ranging from Brooks’ “I hate it” to praise from Manpreet Chandhar, a server at Taste of Thai.
Highlighting the importance of containing the coronavirus’ spread, Chandhar hailed the dramatic measure as a boon to public health.
“If a government implements something, it means to take care of the people,” Chandhar said. “It’s a good rule.”
The order went into effect at 5 p.m. Friday and is currently slated to last 30 days.