City Winery, a premier chain, is stretching a novel strategy to indoor dining amid the pandemic. Two nights a week, all customers and employees have to take a quick virus test at the same place and get a safe report before dining in.
Costing diners $50 per person on top of their charges, it’s a privileged experiment finished with a free glass of sparkling wine but health experts warn that a test is likely to fail. City Winery CEO Michael Dorf thinks the idea is worth testing as restaurants attempt to get through a year of shutdowns and social distancing. With winter overlooking New York eateries’ outdoor-dining lifeline, “how do we get people to dine inside, feel comfortable, feel as safe as possible, so that they can spend money in our restaurant, and our staff can make money?” asks Dorf, as City Winery’s business is increased 85% compared to 2019.
“We feel that this is what we need to do over the next five or six months in New York if we’re going to be able to survive as a restaurant,” he told. A hotel with a rooftop lounge and restaurant in Queens’ hip Long Island City neighborhood shortly tried a parallel testing program. And it’s not obvious how many other restaurants might follow the plan. As City Winery’s testing debuted Tuesday, customers wearing masks with reservation only, with about 10 people per 15-minute slot took their tests by health care professionals amid barrels and tanks in a wine-making area. The customers sipped bubbly wine as they waited about 15 minutes for results.
With a negative result, they were directed to socially distanced tables in a sprawling dining room of the eatery that operates alongside. With 160 reservations, no customers tested positive, though one employee did and instantly went home without beginning work, restaurant spokeswoman Hanna Bray said. “We’ve been being careful but just want to do an extra layer of making sure” by getting a test, Shields said, with “the added benefit of getting to enjoy some time and a meal before Thanksgiving with some friends.”
Quick coronavirus tests have become widely used in recent months as quicker and more inexpensive choices to tests that have to be sent to labs for processing. But the fast antigen tests, which examine for proteins found on the virus’ surface, aren’t regarded as exact as lab-processed ones that look for bits of the virus’s genetic material. Dr. Jennifer Lighter, an epidemiologist in the NYU Langone hospital system, appreciates endeavors to promote testing, at restaurants or elsewhere. But she highlights that testing is no alternate for masks, social distancing, and ventilation in controlling the virus’ spread. “I appreciate that there is increased testing, at the same time, you know, really testing doesn’t prevent transmission,” said Lighter.