NEW HAVEN, CT (WFSB) – New Haven is seeing a surge in COVID-19 numbers and indoor dining may be a contributing factor.

The surge resulted in Mayor Justin Elicker asking for the toughest restrictions the state’s seen since spring.

Since the pandemic started, New Haven has closed nine restaurants for COVID-related concerns. Many have opened back up after making the changes. However, one of them, Anthony’s Ocean View, has remained closed.

Elicker said he would go a step further. If he had the power, all of New Haven would be back at Phase 1.

"I've made my strong recommendation to the governor's team that we would like to move back to Phase 1," Elicker said. 

So far, Gov. Ned Lamont hasn't budged. He said he'd like to avoid locking down again. 

As of Tuesday night, New Haven dealt with more than 4,100 confirmed coronavirus cases.

“The cases are significantly due to small gatherings. We have seen individuals are gathering with people who are not members of their household,” said Maritza Bond, New Haven director of public health.

During an online COVID-19 update, New Haven officials said many cases may be linked to indoor dining.

“The contact tracing efforts have indicated that a lot of cases are linked to restaurants, the high risk of indoor facilities,” Bond said.

The city, with an infection rate of 19 per 100,000, has been a COVID hotspot for a month.

Elicker said he is trying to stop the spread by having his coronavirus inspection team crack down on restaurants.

Two weeks ago, Anthony’s Ocean View was shut down after hosting a party with hundreds of college students.

The following businesses were temporarily shut down by the city:

  • 50 Fitch- COVID-19 Related Based on Complaints and Observation, Plan of Correction Approval (9/1/2020))
  • Middletown Café- COVID-19 Related, No food service license/Operating a bar during Phase 2
  • Zodiac (Voluntary Closure)- COVID-19 Related (Cannot operate a bar during phase 2)
  • Gotham Café (Voluntary Closure)- COVID-19 Related (Cannot operate a bar during phase 2)
  • Temple Grill- COVID-19 Related Based on Complaints and Video, Plan of Correction Approval (8/12/2020)
  • Keys to the City (Voluntary Closure 10/8/2020) - COVID-19 Related Based on Video Complaints (filed with NHHD)
  • Isabel’s Peanuts- COVID-19 Related Based on Social Distancing
  • Anthony’s- COVID-19 Related Based on Complaints and Video

“We’ve seen a number of businesses be lax about either the number of people gathering in that business beyond the levels allowed right now or employees not wearing masks,” Elicker said.

From now on, a restaurant will get a warning for a violation. After that, if people are spotted without masks, the establishment will get a $100 fine. The fine is then upped to $500 if the restaurant violates a gathering restriction.

All inspections will be random, and no fines have gone out yet.

As New Haven faces another coronavirus surge, Elicker said a citywide rollback to Phase 1 for restaurants may be necessary.

“We need to eliminate as many possibilities for people interacting without masks. While in the short term it’s very difficult for our businesses, in the long term, it’s going to be better for our businesses because we’ll be able to get the cases under control quickly,” Elicker said.

At Union League Cafe, they are forging on, rolling out their new fall menu full of French classics like duck breasts and filets. The dining room is already at 50 percent capacity and the staff was also cut from 65 to 30. 

The cafe doesn't know if it could endure a second lockdown this year. 

"I understand that the numbers are rising, but it's true, we wouldn't be able to function," said Romain Turpault, general manager of Union League Cafe. 

While nothing was official and an update is expected on Thursday, New Haven business owners got a sense that Phase 1 could happen next week. 

Copyright 2019 WFSB (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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