On Friday, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that New York City had been cleared by health experts to enter Phase Two of the state’s reopening plan this coming Monday. The news comes after the city’s phase one opening earlier in June as well as recent confusion and unrest surrounding phase two news.”I am so incredibly proud of what we all did together and as a community. We reopened the economy and saved lives, because it was never a choice between one or the other, it was always to do both,” Governor Cuomo said.

The number of COVID-19 cases has dramatically decreased since the pandemic’s outbreak in early March. Out of the 79,308 tests conducted in New York State on Thursday, only 796, or 1 percent, were positive.  Phase two will allow for the reopening of outdoor dining at bars and restaurants, in-person retail, hair salons and barbershops (not including care services like nails and massages), and office-based jobs in professional services, administration support, and information technology. In addition, real estate services including leasing, rental and sales services, and building and property management can begin again. All of these are required to operate at half capacity and follow strict COVID safeguards, such as social distancing and facial coverings.

Many corporate companies, like Google, Amazon Twitter, have told their employees they can continue to work remotely and do not need to return for many months. Even financial giants like Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan are doing the same, for the most part. As a result, the number of commuters returning to work is expected to be around 300,000, according to Mayor de Blasio, far lower than pre-Covid numbers.

Outdoor dining in NYCBar 180 on Broadway on June 14th, 2020.

The reopening is not without its fair share of controversy. Many New York City restaurants have already begun with outdoor dining before phase two plans were put into effect. To combat this, Governor Cuomo signed an executive order empowering the state to shut down violators of local reopening guidelines and strip them of their liquor licenses.

Under phase two guidelines, restaurants will now officially be allowed to have sidewalk and curb lane seating. Alcohol can now be served outdoors for restaurants with preexisting liquor licenses. On Friday, the Department of Transportation posted an online self-certification application for sidewalk and curbside seating. As part of that application, restaurants and bars are required to self-certify that they will not allow unseated customers to crowd outside of their establishments. Failure to follow these guidelines could cost eateries their Open Restaurant authorizations. All employees are required to wear masks and seating must be spaced at least 6-feet apart. The specifics of seating is based off the context of each restaurant, but additional information on guidelines and resources is available on the NY State Website.

Although phase two is a major step in reopening New York, expect restaurants, bars, and other summertime staples to be operating in a limited capacity for the foreseeable future. Numerous New York City restaurants and bars have closed their doors for good during the pandemic. The subway will remain closed overnight from 1 AM to 5 AM for now for daily cleanings. In the meantime, the city offers plenty of other opportunities to get, including expansive outdoor spaces waiting to be explored.

Next, check out the beautiful Naval Cemetery Landscape in Brooklyn that just reopened.