Exterior of One if by Land, Two if By Sea. (Photo by James Pothen)

Indoor dining is back in New York City just in time for Valentine’s Day, and restaurant patrons are feeling the love. An informal survey of several popular date spots found that dinner reservations for Sunday are largely gone.

Today’s resumption of indoor dining “comes at a good time,” according to Andres Restrepo, manager of Socarrat Paella Bar in Nolita. “Because Valentine’s is one of those holidays where there’s always an increase.”

After a December spike in COVID-19 cases, restaurants were forced to make patrons eat outside or order takeout. But on Jan. 29, Governor Cuomo announced dining rooms would once again be allowed to operate. Shortly after, popular romantic spot One if by Land, Two if By Sea announced via Instagram that they would open for Valentine’s Day. Tables are completely booked for the evening, with the only opening during the day for brunch at noon. 

But with indoor dining reduced to 25 percent capacity, restaurants aren’t likely to get as much business as in 2020. “We saw an increase [in reservations] because we have more space,” Restrepo noted. “But compared to last year, since we only have 25 percent indoors, obviously it’s less.”

And while some restaurants do offer outdoor dining or sidewalk seating, it appears those seats are just not enough to meet demand. Buvette NYC, Anton’s, and Wayan are also booked up for Valentine’s dinner.

Exterior of One if by Land, Two if By Sea. (Photo by James Pothen)

“We also have a patio,” Restrepo added. “That doesn’t fit as many people, but with the combination of both [indoor dining and patio seating], it’s better than in just the patio alone.”Restrepo said that he has seen reservations fill up for Friday and Saturday ahead of the holiday. And that the surge in reservations has extended into the days after as well. He mentioned that providing comfortable outdoor seating has been difficult over the last few months.

“This winter has been particularly cold,” he stated. “And even if you have the outdoor area, it has to be really open. So sometimes if it’s windy, even with the heaters, people have to wear their coats.”

The NYC Hospitality Alliance, which represents over 24,000 city restaurants and bars, has lauded the decision, announced earlier this week, to reopen dining rooms on Friday rather than on Sunday, as originally planned.

“This will allow restaurants to generate much needed revenue from the Valentine’s Day weekend business, much of which they would have lost because the holiday falls on a Sunday this year,” executive director Andrew Rigie said in a statement. “The advanced opening and better health metrics are welcome news to the city’s decimated restaurant industry and to lovers alike.”

Today, Gov. Cuomo gave restaurants another Valentine’s gift, announcing that the statewide closing time for restaurants and bars would be extended from 10pm to 11pm starting Sunday. Cuomo said the decision was “based on science and data.” His office noted that New York’s daily positivity rate of 3.91 percent is the lowest it has been since Dec. 19.