Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Wednesday said New York's businesses with liquor licenses, such as restaurants and bars, and gyms must close at 10 each night and gatherings in private residences must be capped at 10 people, in response to rising numbers of positive coronavirus cases. Newsday's Faith Jessie has the story. Credit: Newsday staff; Photo Credit: Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo / Mike Groll;;

This story was reported by Matthew Chayes, Joan Gralla, Corin Hirsch, Bart Jones, David Olson, Carol Polsky and David Reich-Hale, It was written by Jones.

New York's restaurants with liquor licenses, bars and gyms must close at 10 each night and gatherings in private residences must be capped at 10 people, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced on Wednesday, as COVID-19 rates continued to rise statewide.

The new restrictions, which apply to any facility with a liquor license, will take effect at 10 p.m. on Friday.

"We have always been good at staying ahead of COVID and this is the calibration that we’ve talked about: increase economic activity, watch the positivity rate, positivity rate starts to go up, back off on the economic activity," Cuomo said on a telephone briefing with reporters Wednesday.

Restaurants can continue to offer curbside pickup after 10 p.m., Cuomo said. Gatherings in private residences previously had been restricted to 50 people.

Some restaurant owners said the new mandate could devastate their businesses.

Thomas Fazio, executive chef of That Meetball Place in Farmingdale and Patchogue, said he was floored by the news. The kitchen at both spots stays open until 1 a.m. on weekends, he said, and a significant portion of revenue comes in after 10 p.m.

After the first coronavirus-related shutdown, he spent "tens of thousands of dollars" to build partitions, make improvements to HVAC systems, and bolster sanitation, he said. Without "significant" state-level financial help, Fazio said the latest restrictions are untenable.

"We’re already operating at 50 percent capacity, and as an industry we run a net margin of 8 to 12 percent. Now you’re taking prime revenue-driving hours and removing them," Fazio said.

Butch Yamali, owner of the Milleridge Inn in Jericho and Coral House in Freeport, said diners would have to complete their meal by 9:30 p.m. and leave by 10 p.m., meaning restaurants like his could no longer seat anyone after 8 p.m.

"This is a major dilemma for our industry and puts pressure on family-owned restaurants like ours," he said. With the 10 p.m. curfew "we will have to reduce seating, reschedule reservations, cancel and reschedule parties and weddings that were already severely restricted. This puts another nail in the coffin of an industry already dying from COVID-19 — but we will fully comply with the governor's orders, because safety is more important than anything else."

Gina Caggiano, owner of the North Village Tavern in Rockville Centre, this week opened the Oceanside bar BTW, which stands for "Born This Way." Her new venture is aimed at the LGBTQ community, and by Caggiano’s estimation has cost "hundreds of thousands of dollars" in planning, permitting and renovation — a plan she had to continuously alter as COVID-19 rewrote the rules of operation.

Now, she said, bars and restaurants are being unfairly blamed for COVID-19 spread.

"We’re spending thousands of dollars to set everything up and abide by the rules, and yet we get blamed again," she said. The bulk of her business comes between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. "Let’s get some grants — if you want to keep shutting us down, let’s get some grants, not SBA loans we need to pay back, not PPP loan, straight-up money."

But, Cuomo said, "if you look at where the cases are coming from, if you do the contact tracing, you'll see they're coming from three main areas: establishments where alcohol is served, gyms, and indoor gatherings at private homes."

He added that the house party mandate does not apply to households with more than 10 people.

Asked whether Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone supports the new restrictions, a spokesman pointed to Bellone’s Tuesday news briefing, in which he expressed concern about the spread of the virus at gatherings in Suffolk of 50 people or fewer. But he did not say whether Bellone supported a reduction in the maximum number of attendees at private residences.

Bellone also said Tuesday that he was concerned parts of the county could be declared micro-clusters if the increase in numbers wasn’t reversed.

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran did not say Wednesday whether she supports the new rules. She did say "we will do everything possible on the local level to help our struggling businesses stay afloat and come back stronger."

Cuomo said if infection levels didn't decline in the suburbs surrounding New York City, he may drop the permitted capacity in restaurants in the suburbs from 50% to 25% — the current rate in the city.

Meanwhile, the entire Roslyn school district will stop in-person instruction Thursday and Friday because COVID-19 cases are "no longer contained to one building," district superintendent Allison Brown said in a video message Wednesday.

Late Tuesday, Brown said she learned the Nassau County Department of Health’s contact tracing unit "has been overwhelmed with cases countywide generated in part by the high risk social activities that continue to take place in our community."

On Monday, the district reported a positive test result in a high school student and initially believed it was not necessary to close the building. Now all district schools, including three elementary schools, a middle school and high school, will switch to remote instruction while contact tracing is completed.

Brown warned that "irresponsible choices made by a few residents" could force the district to switch to remote instruction for a longer period. "Please understand that careless behavior and failure to cooperate with contact tracers puts everyone at risk and jeopardizes the rest of our school year."

The positivity level on Long Island dipped slightly to 3.3% in tests completed Tuesday, down from 3.5% on Monday and 3.4% on Sunday. For weeks it hovered around 1%.

The number of new confirmed cases was 402 in Nassau County and 412 in Suffolk County. That was far above the figures throughout the summer when they typically fell well below 100.

The statewide positivity level was 2.93% on Tuesday, the governor said, including the "micro-clusters" facing increased restrictions in areas such as Brooklyn and Rockland County. That level also had been around 1% for weeks.

Suffolk health officials said Wednesday that patrons of two Oakdale restaurants — Mannino’s Restaurant and The Village Idiot Irish Pub, located about 500 feet apart on Montauk Highway — may have been exposed to the virus.

Suffolk health officials advised patrons of possible COVID-19 exposure recently at...

Suffolk health officials advised patrons of possible COVID-19 exposure recently at the Village Idiot Irish Pub on Montauk Highway in Oakdale. The restaurant is show on Wednesday. Credit: James Carbone

Officials advised anyone who was at the restaurants between Oct. 31 and Nov. 2 to consider getting tested and screen themselves for symptoms. But John Sarno, the pub’s co-owner, said Wednesday that on Nov. 9 county health officials told him five of his customers who visited on Oct. 27 and Oct. 29 had tested positive.

Then, one day after working on Halloween, one of his employees, feeling ill, got tested for the novel coronavirus — and received a positive result, as did two co-workers, Sarno said.

An earlier alert from health officials might have protected his workers and customers, he said.

Sarno’s question for county and state health departments: "Why didn’t you guys tell us?"

"We’re doing our due diligence on our own end and making sure it doesn’t spread," he said.

The workers have been quarantining, and are doing fine, he added.

"It’s not easy with 50 percent of capacity but we’re doing our best to protect our employees and customers," Sarno said.

The restaurant has undergone two rounds of sanitizing, on Nov. 1 and Nov. 9, Sarno said. No one else has tested positive, he said.

A representative for Mannino's could not be reached.

Cuomo also said he was moving Port Chester in Westchester County from a yellow to the more restrictive orange level he is using to designate "micro-clusters" and impose limitations on businesses, schools and public gatherings. Red is the highest level.

And he said Staten Island is being designated a yellow zone because of increasing levels of confirmed COVID-19 cases. He indicated that is partly because of Staten Island's frequent interaction with neighboring New Jersey, which has higher infection levels than New York.

Twenty-one people died in New York State on Tuesday of COVID-19-related causes.

Meanwhile, Roanoke Avenue Elementary School will be closed until Nov. 30 because at least one staffer tested positive for COVID-19, the Riverhead Central School District said. Wantagh High School will be closed for in-person instruction through Nov. 20, according to a notice on the school's website.

In Lindenhurst, three schools that were closed Tuesday after reports of positive cases — Albany Avenue Elementary, William Rall Elementary and Lindenhurst Middle School — will reopen Thursday for in-person instruction, the superintendent said.

In Port Washington, Paul D. Schreiber High School will be closed and students and staff will work remotely Thursday and Friday after two students tested positive for the coronavirus, the district said in an email.

As of Wednesday, Long Island public and private schools had reported 1,532 coronavirus positives since Sept. 8, up 77 cases from a day earlier, according to the state’s COVID-19 Report Card. Of those, 1,136 were students and 396 were teachers and staff. The statewide tally as of Wednesday was 5,209 students and 2,639 teachers and staff members for a total of 7,848 who tested positive.

Increasing coronavirus infections could cause New York City to impose further restrictions, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday.

"This is our LAST chance to stop a second wave," de Blasio tweeted. "We can do it, but we have to act NOW."

Despite rising levels of infection, there is cause for hope, Cuomo said.

"We are within sight of the finish line. The vaccine has been discovered," he said. "We’re in this last small lap. Let’s just do what we have to do to get through it and then we’ll rebuild together."

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