OPINION | Government rules for restaurants

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RESTAURANTS, beware: Nothing’s harder to sate than a taste for power, and state and local leaders are getting to like emergency orders.

Now several have imposed new diktats that serve little public-health purpose but make survival even more difficult for struggling restaurants.


The latest comes from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. For more than a month, 2% or fewer of those tested in New York City have been found positive for Covid. The Governor has nonetheless refused to allow any indoor dining in the city. Then last week he declared that all alcoholic drinks must now be served with a meal or snack.


Mr. Cuomo claims this new mandate is necessary to prevent New Yorkers from congregating and spreading the virus. In reality, it’s one more needless burden on restaurants, which can be shut down or lose their license if they fail to comply. Covid-19 spreads as easily over hot wings as beers, and the executive order won’t prevent those who want to linger from ordering a second round.


Mr. Cuomo also wants to micromanage patrons’ orders. He said serving chips with beer isn’t sufficiently compliant. But “breads, mustards and crackers” are fine, and drinkers can split an appetizer as long as it “would sufficiently serve the number of people in the party,” the official guidance says.


Like several other places, San Diego County requires restaurants to close early at 10 p.m., though guests already at a table can stay until 11. This deprives restaurants of late-night customers, though Covid doesn’t become more virulent in the waning hours.


Chicago allows restaurants to expand into the streets, but while “table umbrellas are encouraged as a way to mitigate sun and rain,” tents are verboten. And during Phase 1 in Oregon, pool tables are off limits but video lottery machines, juke boxes and coin-operated arcade machines may remain open as long as social distancing is maintained, players are limited to one, and machines are cleaned between use.


Meanwhile, the Independent Restaurant Coalition, which represents some 500,000 small businesses, found that up to 85% of independent restaurants are at risk of closing by the end of the year.

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