STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Let the parties begin.
That was the sentiment among Staten Island catering hall owners upon hearing wedding receptions can resume March 15 at 50% of a facility’s capacity or up to 150 guests. And everyone needs to present a negative coronavirus (COVID-19) test result at the door, said Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday. He was not specific about the timeframe for taking the test before an event.
In addition, all events must be approved by the state Health Department.
There is no indication that other events — such as Sweet 16s and bar mitzvahs — are permitted under the new guidance. Cuomo’s official statements all mention weddings explicitly — no other kinds of large gatherings.
A Cuomo administration spokesperson couldn’t immediately say if the new guidance applies to affairs other than weddings.
IS DANCING ALLOWED?
And, there’s still a question about whether dancing will be permitted at wedding receptions. Dancing has been prohibited at all venues since the coronavirus mandates went into effect last year.
A Cuomo Administration spokesperson said the state Health Department is working on more detailed guidance about the activities that will be permitted at affairs.
“As data on infection rates and hospitalizations continue to improve, we must begin taking steps to jumpstart our economic recovery as long as public health can be protected,” said Cuomo, who also announced that restaurants can open for indoor dining at 25% capacity on Feb.14.
“The restaurant industry is the lifeblood of New York City and the economic hardship they have endured at the hands of COVID is nothing short of tragic. …This is a great development, but we cannot become complacent now – we must all continue to do our part to keep beating back COVID so we can continue re-opening our economy and get back to normal,” he added.
Previously, wedding receptions fell under the state’s category of “mass gatherings,” and coronavirus mandates limited get-togethers to 50 people outside private homes. In-home gatherings are still limited to 10 people.
Over the last week, Cuomo has made an initial push to reopen some venues — with a requirement that people are tested for COVID-19 prior to arrival. During his State of the State address earlier this month, Cuomo said he wanted to ramp up rapid testing to bring back office buildings, businesses and more.
The Governor said the idea to resume weddings came on the heels of allowing spectators — all of whom were required to provide a negative coronavirus test — at two Buffalo Bills home playoff games earlier this month.
LOCAL CATERING HALL OWNERS REACT
Staten Island catering hall owners said they are eager to resume the many parties and events that were canceled over the last year.
Lois and Richard Nicotra, owners of Hilton Garden Inn in Bloomfield, said they had to move hundreds of events from 2020 to the 2021 calendar year.
“Our Lorenzo’s, Nicotra’s Ballroom and Above Weddings team have been working to prepare before the announcement, so we are ready to go for indoor dining and larger indoor gatherings,” said the Nicotras in a written statement.
“Our clients — especially our wedding couples — talk to us almost daily about their 2021 plans. They are ready to celebrate their special events, and after a year like this, we think we have all learned that creating special memories together is what life is all about,” they added.
Said John Vincent Scalia, owner of the Historic Old Bermuda Inn in Charleston: “We have so many weddings and events backed up. This is very good news for us.”
In fact, Cindy Brennan, general manager of the Historic Old Bermuda Inn, said they “stopped counting” the amount of events that had to be rescheduled since the start of the pandemic, but noted it was more than 400 affairs in their multiple room facility.
Scalia said while he was having very small affairs outdoors in the summer, he has been completely closed for the last few months. In lieu of events, he has been delivering dinner food boxes that feed up to 46 people to clients who want a catered meal. In addition, Scalia is offering catered meals at his neighboring bed and breakfast.
“People are renting rooms at the B&B and getting take out from the Old Bermuda Inn for Valentine’s Day,” said Scalia. “We are setting up elegant rooms, so they can have candlelight dinners.”
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BUT WILL PEOPLE COME?
Some caterers said they are wondering if guests will be reluctant to attend a parties once they resume.
“We moved so many parties from month to month,” said Chef Lou Marfoglio, owner of Daddino’s Grand Ballroom at Historical Colony Hall in Sea View. “Some people are still cautious. …People tell me they have guests in their 70s and 80s, who may not want to come.”
However, he said he believes this is the first step to a return to normalcy.
“I 100% think this is a step in the right direction,” said Marfoglio.
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