After forcing thousands of small businesses to shut down — with some closing permanently — Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said “the cost is too high” to remain closed much longer.
“We simply cannot stay closed until the vaccine hits critical mass. The cost is too high. We will have nothing left to open,” the governor tweeted. “We must reopen the economy, but we must do it smartly and safely.”
We simply cannot stay closed until the vaccine hits critical mass. The cost is too high. We will have nothing left to open. We must reopen the economy, but we must do it smartly and safely.#SOTS2021
— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) January 11, 2021
As recently as December Cuomo announced that all indoor dining in New York City would be banned, claiming the risk associated with the practice was “too high.”
The most recent ban on in-person dining triggered a protest in Times Square against Cuomo’s restrictions, arguing the city was “killing” small business owners.
“Our restaurants are one of the most important avenues of small business in our city,” president of the New York Multi-Cultural Restaurant & Nightlife Chamber of Commerce Tony Herbert said, according to Newsweek. “So I say to the governor, I say to the mayor, get your act together now. We need our restaurants open now.”
As of November at least 1,000 restaurants have permanently closed due to the financial devastation that the lockdowns caused, according to Eater New York.
Executive Director of the New York City Hospital Alliance Andrew Rigie said that when the state first went into lockdown, restaurant employment went from 300,000 jobs to 90,000 jobs, according to Newsweek. Rigie reportedly said that now the 100,000 jobs that the industry regained after reopening “could be back on the chopping block” due to the latest restrictions.
Cuomo was initially hesitant to order a complete lockdown of businesses back in March when the pandemic first began, saying he would prefer business owners voluntarily shut down.
“I will get more aggressive on the mandatory regulations,” Cuomo said at a press conference, urging proprietors to “voluntarily close down your bar, your restaurant, your gymnasium.”
“If nobody does it, then we can take more actions,” he continued. (RELATED: National Restaurant Association Says Industry Struggling To Survive With Nearly 1 In 6 Restaurants Closed, Sends Letter To Congress)
Cuomo ultimately ordered all non-essential businesses to close until May 15 through an executive order March 20. Restaurants were allowed to remain open but only for take-out. Liquor stores were deemed essential and were allowed to remain open.
LONG LINES FOR LIQUOR/WINE: Photos don’t do this one justice. Lines steady with 15+ people waiting at a time all with #SocialDistancing markers on the ground. Staff tells me they’ve been told liquor stores are considered an essential service. #wine #littlethings #InThisTogether pic.twitter.com/Uxds1aTZym
— Farah Jadran (@FarahJadran) March 20, 2020
Cuomo threatened to impose fines on any business that did not comply with his order.
“These provisions will be enforced. These are not helpful hints. This is not if you really want to be a great citizen. These are legal provisions. They will be enforced. There will be a civil fine and mandatory closure for any business that is not in compliance,” Cuomo said at a press briefing.
Days after his executive order forced thousands out of work, Cuomo said he wasn’t entirely sure if shutting down the state was the best way to fight the pandemic.
“What we did was we closed everything down. That was our public health strategy. Just close everything, all businesses, old workers, young people, old people, short people, tall people,” Cuomo said, before implying that had he had more time to think about the decision, blanket shutdowns might not have been the answer, according to Fox News.
“If you rethought that or had time to analyze that public health strategy, I don’t know that you would say quarantine everyone. I don’t even know that that was the best public health policy.”
A senior advisor to the governor responded to the Daily Caller’s request for comment but did not provide the requested information.