New York City on Friday night was coming out of hibernation, as restaurants were once again buzzing with people and anticipation was mounting with spring in the air.
As the temperatures began to rise, and with the clocks changing this weekend, residents of the hard-hit city were emerging into their streets.
On March 19 outdoor dining capacity will rise from 50 per cent to 75 per cent – leading people to look forward to a long summer of alfresco dining.
COVID deaths in the state have been steadily declining from a peak of 91 fatalities at the end of January, with 74 reported on Friday.
The positivity rate of COVID tests on Thursday was down to 3.11 per cent, and the number of ICU patients fell by 20 to 935.
New Yorkers are seen eating at Panna II restaurant in the East Village of Manhattan on Friday night
The restaurant, famed for its bright lights, has reopened at a limited capacity for indoor dining
The Ox Cart Tavern in Brooklyn was busy on Friday night as New Yorkers begin to emerge
Diners enjoy the lighter evenings on Friday – and with the clocks changing, even more people will emerge
As of 11am on Friday, 21 per cent of New Yorkers have completed at least one vaccine dose: half of those have had their second jab.
The city’s rediscovery of its mojo was noted by public transport operators.
On Friday, NYC Transit announced that more subway trips were recorded on Thursday – 1,863,962 – than on any day since the start of the pandemic.
The figure is still far short, however, of the five million people who would take the subway every day before the pandemic.
Up to 38 million people are expected to visit New York City by the end of the year – around half the normal amount, but much higher than in 2020.
Patrons dine at Goodnight Sonny restaurant in the East Village on Friday night
The East Village of Manhattan, with its vibrant dining district, has been hard-hit by the pandemic but is recovering
New Yorkers eat outside at Yuca Bar by Tompkins Square in the East Village, where an outdoor greenhouse has been built
Yuca Bar is currently operating at 35 per cent indoor capacity – and will increase its outdoor capacity next week
Everyone entering Yuca Bar in the East Village is reminded that they must wear face masks when not seated at tables
‘I see the ship turning later this summer, into the fall and there’s going to be an extraordinary amount of pent-up demand,’ said Christopher Heywood of NYC & Company, the city department in charge of tourism.
‘When the lights get turned on, they’re going to want to get back.’
In April Broadway theaters, closed for a year, will start to reopen for special events in front of limited indoor audiences.
The NY PopsUp program will serve as a test run for the return of live artistic performances in New York City after the pandemic shuttered plays, ballet, opera and concerts in the city.
New York officials said on Wednesday that event spaces could reopen at one-third of their capacity, or 100 people indoors, starting on April 2.
Testing, masks and social distancing will be required.
The Greenpoint Beer Garden was open for business on Friday night, with the rooftop bar proving popular
The Wild Son restaurant in the East Village has erected perspex barriers between clients to instill a sense of safety
Chefs at Forma Pasta Factory in Brooklyn are hard at work as customers begin to return to restaurants
Warmer weather has encouraged people to emerge from their apartments and consider eating out in New York
A handful of off-Broadway venues with flexible performance spaces will be also be adapted for socially distanced arts events and start opening in April.
‘The reopening of these venues will provide the much needed light at the end of this long, dark tunnel,’ Sade Lythcott, chief executive of the National Black Theatre, said in a statement.
Thousands of actors, dancers, musicians and backstage crew were thrown out of work when Broadway theaters closed.
The target date for reopening is currently June 1, although that date may slip.
Some shows, including the hit musicals Frozen and Mean Girls, have said they will not return
Live theater is one of the last sectors to come back after the pandemic because of the challenges of social distancing for actors on stage, for crews backstage, and for audiences in cramped seating in old buildings.
‘Until Broadway is open, New York is not open,’ said Charlotte St. Martin, the president of The Broadway League.
‘Broadway stands for New York to most of the world.’
Diners are pictured eating outside at the Forma Pasta Factory on Friday, as warmer weather ushered in more optimism
New Yorkers tuck in to sushi on Friday night in the East Village, as restaurants look forward to a busy summer
People in Brooklyn are pictured enjoying the warmer weather outside Good Bar in Williamsburg
New York is opening up to indoor diners in a balancing act between keeping restaurants afloat and stemming the virus
Charles Nolan, the general manager of Big Bus New York, said he was confident tourists would return in the later summer and fall.
‘Well, we are placing a lot of hope into the third quarter of 2021 simply because of the vaccine rollout and the enthusiasm of people to travel,’ he said.
Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York, said in a statement on Wednesday: ‘In New York State, our decisions are based on science and data and we are encouraged by the continued decline in [COVID-19] infection and hospitalization rates.’
He added: ‘We will continue to follow the science and react accordingly. If we keep the infections down and vaccinations up, we will continue to stay ahead in the footrace against this invisible enemy and reach the light at the end of the tunnel together.’
The hospitality industry, which has desperately been calling for restaurant capacity to be increased, were buoyed by the news.
Andrew Rigie, the head of the NYC Hospitality Alliance, told the New York Post: ‘While city restaurants may not increase occupancy to 75 per cent like restaurants are safely doing throughout the rest of the state, it is still welcome news to the battered restaurant industry.’
He added: ‘Cautiously and safely increasing indoor dining capacity at New York City restaurants to 50 per cent, with an eye toward expanding in the future, more vaccinations, and dedicated restaurant relief on its way from the federal government gives our industry some optimism among all the doom and gloom of this past year.’
The increases in capacity are part of Cuomo’s plan ‘to jump start their post-COVID recovery and reinvigorate the economy.’
Talea Beer Company in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg district was buzzing on Friday night
People wearing face masks find their tables at Talea Beer Company on Friday night
The Farm on Adderly in Brooklyn’s Flatbush district was allowing diners to keep warm inside a tent
Others could brave the night time chill by sitting outside – although finally ski pants and jackets were not necessary
In the governor’s announcement he noted that the opening up of more dining tables had seen the passing of two COVID-19 incubation periods, roughly around four weeks total, which ‘have passed without any significant rise in infection and hospitalization rates.’
In his address to the nation on Thursday, Biden struck a note of similar optimism.
‘I need you to get vaccinated when it’s your turn and when you can find an opportunity and to help your family, your friends, your neighbors get vaccinated as well,’ the president said.
‘If we do all this, if we do our part, we do this together, by July the 4th, there’s a good chance you, your families and friends will be able to get together in your backyard or in your neighborhood and have a cookout and a barbecue and celebrate Independence Day.’