Dubbed the best San Antonio-style taco in New York City by Eater, Yellow Rose — a taqueria in the East Village — boasts buzzy plant-forward eats and even doughnuts. Unfortunately, the Tex-Mex spot now joins at least 30 NYC restaurants temporarily closing this week because of a sharp uptick in COVID cases.

Diners in New York City are required to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test prior to eating indoors, per city regulations. For months, that guidance has protected New Yorkers and tourists alike. But the Omicron variant, experts say, spreads faster than previous variants. New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi called it an “alarming” COVID-19 transmission trend, while Dr. Jay Varma, City Hall’s top health advisor, pointed out that the positivity rate in NYC jumped from 3.9 percent to 7.8 percent in three days.

The five boroughs have been hit particularly hard; the reported number of new cases has risen to an average of 3709 over the last week – 1400 more cases than the 28 day average of 2368. According to the New York Times, the restaurants closed because staff members have tested positive. 

“We have seen a very substantial increase in COVID cases in the last few days,” said New York City mayor Bill De Blasio in a press conference on Thursday afternoon. “It is clear that the Omicron variant is here in New York City in full force.”

Currently, the city isn’t mandating that restaurants close indoor dining (as of publication), leaving many restaurant owners to make public health decisions on their own. On Wednesday afternoon, Vietnamese restaurant Di An Di in Brooklyn announced a temporary shut down following a Covid exposure within their team on Instagram.

Contento in East Harlem shut down service on the spot on Tuesday morning, after being notified that a patron who dined at the restaurant over the weekend tested positive. Yannick Benjamin, sommelier and co-founder of Contento, told Eater that the wine-centric restaurant needed to launch a full investigation before safely reopening. 

Impacted restaurants* in NYC include:

Bernie’s (Greenpoint, Brooklyn)

- Compaigne des Vins Surnaturel (Little Italy, Manhattan)

Contento (East Harlem, Manhattan)

Cozy Royale (Greenpoint, Brooklyn)

Di An Di (Greenpoint, Brooklyn)

- Electric Burrito (East Village, Manhattan)

- Eugene & Co. (Bedford–Stuyvesant, Brooklyn)

- Faro (Bushwick, Brooklyn)

Four Horsemen (Williamsburg, Brooklyn)

- Frankel's Delicatessen (Williamsburg, Brooklyn)

LaLou (Prospect Heights, Brooklyn)

- L'industrie Pizza (Williamsburg, Brooklyn)

- LLoHi Roofbar (Williamsburg, Brooklyn)

Love, Nelly (East Bushwick, Brooklyn)

- Marea (Columbus Circle, Manhattan)

Nite Nite (East Williamsburg, Brooklyn)

Otway (Clinton Hill, Brooklyn)

- Oxalis (Crown Heights, Brooklyn)

- Pasquale Jones (Nolita, Manhattan)

- Pearl's Social & Billy Club (Bushwick, Brooklyn)

- Pheasant (Greenpoint, Brooklyn)

- Reclamation Bar (East Williamsburg, Brooklyn)

Rialto Grande (Crown Heights, Brooklyn)

- Sama Street (Greenpoint, Brooklyn)

Thief (Williamsburg, Brooklyn)

- Top Quality (Long Island City, Queens)

- Ugly Baby (Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn)

- Van Da (East Village, Manhattan)

- We Got Company (Greenpoint, Brooklyn)

Winona’s (Greenpoint, Brooklyn)

- Yellow Rose (East Village, Manhattan)

*At time of publication. Some of these restaurants may be open later this week.

The Omicron variant was first detected and labeled a "variant of concern" by the World Health Organization roughly a month ago, with a steady rise in cases ever since. The CDC reports that the tri-state area is experiencing the highest spread of Omicron in the country, with the variant now accounting for 13% of cases.

Last Friday, New York Governor Kathy Hochul announced that masks will be required in all indoor public spaces that do not require vaccination for entry. According to the New York Times, this “new requirement means that shops, restaurants and venues must require patrons to be masked unless employees check that those entering the premises are fully vaccinated.” 

Stephanie Gallardo, the co-owner of Love, Nelly bakery in Brooklyn, told Eater that the real kicker is that many establishments affected by the mandate are very open about being masked all the time.

"We’re doing everything we need to do with the new mandate," Gallardo said. "We really can’t catch a break.”

In addition to health concerns, the rise in Covid cases also lends a big financial concern for restaurant owners – many of whom are already feeling the toll of more than a year in a global pandemic.

“I foolishly thought we had gotten past this,” Dennis Ngo, the owner of Di An Di, said to the New York Times. The owner of the Brooklyn Vietnamese joint is considering reintroducing delivery and takeout, should he have to shut down his indoor dining yet again.

The timing of the Omicron virus is less than ideal for restaurants, many of whom would be losing crucial revenue during one of the most expensive months of the year. Furthermore, restaurants are at risk of losing significant income from holiday parties, treat platters, and tourism. For example, Contento shutting down on Tuesday following exposure from a patron meant canceling one of their largest holiday parties during one of the most lucrative weeks for the restaurant business.

Some restaurants, such as Ugly Baby Thai Food in Carroll Gardens and LLoHi Roofbar in Williamsburg have announced that they will be closed through the end of 2021 due to the increase in positive cases. 

Despite the potential financial losses, right now, it’s about keeping both employees and patrons safe.

“We will reopen safely when everyone comes back with a negative pcr test,” Yellow Rose stated on their Instagram. “In the meantime, be safe, lookout for one another and get yer ya ya’s boosted.”