- Starting May 19th, New York venues can increase their capacity limit and lift their curfew for both indoor and outdoor spaces.
New York Governor Cuomo has announced that most New York venues can lift some capacity restrictions starting May 19th.
The new regulations will allow large-scale event venues to operate at 30 percent capacity, up from the previous capacity limit of ten percent. Meanwhile, large-scale outdoor event venues can increase their capacity to 33 percent. The policy change will also permit New York venues to exceed the limit of 250 people indoors and 500 people outdoors, so long as proof of a negative Covid-19 test or vaccination is provided and social distancing is maintained.
The outdoor social gathering and indoor social gathering limit will increase to 500 people and 250 people, respectively. The current 12 AM food and beverage service curfew will also be lifted on May 17th for outdoor dining areas, and on the 19th, indoor dining areas can follow suit.
New York's Covid-19 infection rates have been on the decline for the past month, as 37 percent of the city's population has been fully vaccinated and nearly 50 percent of the population has received their first dose. The announcement follows Cuomo's last major easing of restrictions in April, which led to mixed reactions from New York club owners. Despite the city's progress since then, many club owners are still hesitant to loosen restrictions.
For smaller spots like Bushwick venue Bossa Nova Civic Club, which has recently reopened and launched a new livestream event series, Bossa Radio, hosting 250 people indoors is hardly an option. As owner John Barclays explains, "the highest capacity that we could have and still adhere to their social distancing regulations that are still in effect is about 20 percent of our capacity." He continues, "So we're not even letting in 50 percent of our capacity right now, because there's absolutely no way to do that socially distanced. So the idea of having 75 or 100 percent capacity is just impossible."
Similarly, the owners of the neighboring club Mood Ring, which has been operating as a cocktail bar for the past month, are wary of making any sudden changes. "I think a lot of people think, 'Hey, things are going to open fully this month and I can go to a venue and party,'" co-owner Bowen Goh says.
"That's not really the case. And so, we've gotten a lot of calls from people asking, 'Are you having DJs? Are you throwing dance parties in the back?' The answer is no, and I'm not going to start booking people until there's a very clear sign [that it's safe]—like if cases are super low and a lot of people are vaccinated. If you can actually have people inside safely walk around without a mask on."
Venues also seem hesitant to enforce proof of a vaccination card or negative Covid-19 test before entry. "I'm not opposed to that," Goh says. "I've spoken to some other venues, and it's one of those things where no one really wants to be the first person to do it because some people are going to be weird about personal rights or whatever it might be."
For other venues like the multi-room Ridgewood venue Knockdown Center, things are even more up in the air. Cofounder and director Tyler Myers says, the "only thing to really say is that the guidelines from the state are still too confusing and seem to change from day to day. So we're still in a holding posture."