The moral dilemma of dining in a pandemic

Despite new developments in vaccinations and a decrease in COVID-19 cases, some people remain hesitant about eating at restaurants.


Kaylah Haye

Outdoor dining structures deck the sides of many New York City restaurants as they adjust to the pandemic and socially distanced services. However, many New Yorkers are still hesitant about eating at restaurants, despite the new developments in vaccinations and the decrease in COVID-19 cases. (Photo by Kaylah Haye)

Gabby Lozano, Dining Editor

New York City: the city that never sleeps — because all we do is eat. Home to over 8,000 restaurants across its five boroughs, New York City is a gastronomical hub that offers tourists and residents a taste of the world. Its bustling and diverse restaurant scene is one of the many reasons why I chose to attend NYU.

Then life happened.

I spent my first year of college at NYU Florence. While this was an amazing experience that I do not regret, it also meant one less year to explore New York’s vast food scene. During my sophomore year, I started to explore the variety of restaurants that surrounded Bobst before classes went online, and I got the boot back to my home state of Virginia.

When I returned to the city in the beginning of this year, I was eager to help these businesses in any way I could after witnessing some of my favorite restaurants close. Even if newspapers claimed that the city was dying, I still didn’t believe it. I started supporting the long-standing restaurants I treasured, in addition some new ones.

Yet, I wasn’t able to fully experience the variety of food this city has to offer due to the stress of online classes, searching for internships and the ongoing pandemic. More importantly, I couldn’t help but feel that I was doing something wrong. 

While dining out supports the restaurant’s bottom line, it also contributes to the spread of COVID-19. Not every restaurant takes your temperature at the door. Not every restaurant perfectly follows social distancing guidelines.

Whatever the case, it’s clear that we’ve arrived at a crossroads. 

“We’re in a pandemic and nothing feels safe, but I guess I feel bad for [eating out],” said CAS sophomore Davi Cruz. “I know I’m safe, but am I part of the issue? It definitely feels morally wrong.”

Cruz isn’t alone in his hesitancy. Throughout the last few months, many articles highlighted whether the choice of outdoor dining saves businesses or lives. 

With increased rates of vaccination and a decrease in case numbers, New York has been gradually expanding indoor dining capacity in an attempt to revive the thousands of businesses that have been suffering during the pandemic.

Although CAS sophomore Toné Nanna received her first dose of the vaccine on Tuesday, she remains hesitant to eat in restaurants. 

“I don’t feel any safer than I do without it,” Nanna said. “Even with me getting the vaccine nothing is really changing case-wise.”

Cruz also received his first dose of the vaccine and with it, some semblance of safety. Yet he is still worried that he might transmit the virus to others. “That’s what a pandemic is. It’s not really about yourself. It’s about other people and the collective good,” he said.

Other students are eager to experience some degree of normalcy as New York City opens indoor dining despite studies that highlight COVID-19’s ability to spread indoors.

Liberal Studies sophomore Landon Messner admits that he’s not really nervous about the virus and confesses that the only reason he hasn’t eaten out is due to monetary restrictions.

“If I had all the money in the world, I’d be eating out every day,” says Mensar. More specifically, he’d be spending his money at Dumpling Man and Mamoun’s, two of his favorite restaurants on St. Mark’s Place. 

Unlike Cruz and Nanna, Messner feels that the vaccine presents an opportunity for people to gather and dine together at restaurants. 

“Now that more people are getting vaccinated, there’s more reason for everyone to be going out,” says Messner. “I think the vaccine is a good thing for going out to get food. Now you can do it, and you don’t really have to stress about holding your mask up when the waiters come around with your food.”

Email Gabby Lozano at [email protected].