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NY backtracks on rule that would have prevented outdoor diners from using a restaurant's bathroom

Other new outdoor dining restrictions still apply
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Posted at 9:57 AM, Dec 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-18 09:57:24-05

NEW YORK CITY — The state of New York has reconsidered a controversial new restaurant rule that would have prohibited customers at New York City eateries from using restrooms while indoor dining is suspended, according to Mayor Bill de Blasio's office.

De Blasio's Press Secretary, Avery Cohen, tweeted the update after overnight backlash against the new rule.

"After discussions with the State, they have agreed to change the rule around bathroom access," Cohen wrote. "(You can use the bathroom.)" she wrote in a follow-up tweet.

The now-defunct restriction was just one part of a new set of outdoor-dining guidelines issued by the city late Thursday night.

Despite being put out by the city, de Blasio Press Secretary Bill Neidhardt clarified Friday that the new rules were set by the state, not City Hall.

While customers can still use restaurant bathrooms, the new guidelines still prohibit customers from coming inside a restaurant to pick up a takeout order. Curbside pickup is still allowed.

Additionally, diners shouldn't plan on placing to-go orders in-person. To-go orders must now be placed remotely, either by phone or online.

The page-and-a-half document also gives guidance on outdoor structures — countless of which have popped up on city streets and sidewalks since the summer.

As cooler weather approached, barricades turned into bungalows, prompting some to raise questions over what really constitutes being "outdoors" and COVID-19-safe.

According to new regulations, structures must have at least two open sides for airflow. If the structure has three or more walls, it's considered indoor dining and can't be used until either the restaurateur modifies the structure, or until indoor dining resumes in New York City.

Structures with walls that are made of plastic, tarp or fabric aren't considered to be "open."

Outdoor dining was closed Wednesday due to inclement weather, but resumed Thursday evening — though diners were scarce; temperatures were frigid and snow was impossible to miss.

Indoor dining was put on hold Monday due to rising COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the city.

While the decisions to reduce or shut down dining have been made to try to limit the spread of COVID-19 in public places as the pandemic's second wave rages on, it's drawn the ire of local business owners who are struggling with just a fraction of their usual customers for months on end.

Many New York staples have already closed permanently, unable to recover from the lack of revenue.

This story was originally published by Mark Sundstrom, Corey Crockett and Anthony DiLorenzo on WPIX in New York City.