The class-action suit, filed in Manhattan Supreme Court last week, represents more than 350 other eateries in New York City, all of which claim the shutdown on indoor dining has done “irreparable harm” to their businesses.
The group is seeking $2 billion in damages, in addition to a restart of indoor dining throughout the city. The attorney representing the restaurants in the suit, James Mermigis, says he will utilize affidavits from doctors and risk-assessors in order to demonstrate that eating indoors in Manhattan is “no more dangerous than eating in Albany, Rochester or Buffalo.”
Tina Oppedisano, manager of Il Bacco and daughter of the restaurant’s owner, notes that her family’s establishment, like many in the neighborhood, is located just 500 feet from the border with Nassau County, where indoor dining is permitted.
Yet Il Bacco falls within the boundaries of New York City, the only part of the state where patrons cannot be seated inside.
“We, the five boroughs, have been prohibited from indoor dining since July 3, indefinitely,” she said. “This has left us with many difficulties, a long summer and no clear sight to our future.”
Oppedisano’s father immigrated to New York from Calabria, Italy. He opened the doors to Il Bacco 28 years ago, and hopes he won’t be forced to close them, like so many restaurants have throughout the pandemic.
“What is happening to this country and the city of New York in the past six months is destroying that very same American Dream that this country was built on,” she warned. “The same dream that I was built on.”
On Thursday, Oppedisano was joined outside her family’s restaurant at 253-24 Northern Boulevard by supporters, including fellow local restaurant owners, as well as elected officials and political hopefuls.
“I’m proud to stand here with you in support of the world-class restaurants we have here in Queens, before they are gone forever,” said Joann Ariola, the Republican nominee for Queens borough president, who used the occasion to announce her candidacy.
“Queens patrons can drive a few minutes into Nassau and dine indoors, which makes no sense and is quickly killing Queens restaurants,” she explained. “The COVID-19 numbers have been consistently very low in New York City. The virus doesn’t care whether it’s in Nassau or Queens.”
Those attending the rally continued calls for the mayor and the governor to provide swift plans for a return to indoor dining, blaming the city’s current state of chaos on failed leadership.
“Mayor Bill de Blasio has been asleep at the wheel, before COVID, during COVID and after COVID,” said Councilman Robert Holden. “The City Council is going to make sure that these restaurants open.”
Holden vowed the legislative body would force the mayor’s hand in allowing restaurants to seat indoors at “half, if not full” capacity, and upgrade from the figure of one-third floated by de Blasio previously. His colleague Mark Gjonaj pledged $2,500 to help fund Il Bacco’s lawsuit.
Last week, the mayor suggested that an announcement on indoor dining could come later this month. When it comes to Governor Andrew Cuomo, he expressed a desire to see New York City restaurants welcome customers once again, but only if public safety precautions are properly adhered to and enforced.