- New York City will make its outdoor dining initiatives permanent, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Friday.
- The city’s Open Streets and Open Restaurants initiatives were initially set to end on October 31, but will now continue indefinitely.
- Open Streets closes down streets to make way for outdoor dining, while Open Restaurants allows individual restaurants to apply to use sidewalks and curb lanes as outdoor seating space.
- The continuation of outdoor dining may be a relief for restaurant owners as indoor dining opens up.
- But winter will come with a new set of challenges, including heating and regulation.
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New York City will allow restaurants to continue operating outdoor seating indefinitely, Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Friday in an interview with WNYC’s Brian Lehrer.
Mayor de Blasio announced that the Open Streets initiative and Open Restaurants initiative will become permanent and be year-round, saying the city’s summer of outdoor dining has been a success. He added said that over 10,000 restaurants have been participating in outdoor dining, saving an estimated 100,000 jobs. Both initiatives were initially set to end on October 31.
“I want us to really take this model and make it part of the life of New York City for years and generations to come,” de Blasio told Lehrer. “This has been an extraordinarily positive experiment, and it’s worked.”
The Open Restaurants initiative allows individual restaurants to apply for permission to use the sidewalk or curb lane next to them as outdoor seating. Meanwhile, the Open Streets initiative takes this a step further — working with groups of restaurants and neighborhood organizations to close entire streets and transform them into outdoor dining spaces.
New York City delayed any decision-making on indoor-dining until September 9, and will be one of the last jurisdictions to reopen indoor dining officially on September 30. But indoor dining has been linked to COVID-19 spikes in other parts of the country, and some restaurant owners are skeptical of its safety. The city’s proposed 25% capacity limit will make it especially difficult for owners to generate a profit, as many operate in small, expensive spaces.
Continuing outdoor dining may ease the burden on restaurant owners come winter, especially for those not comfortable reopening for indoor dining. But it also creates a new set of challenges, including how to heat outdoor spaces. Once temperatures drop, restaurants will face the difficult — and expensive — problem of keeping customers warm and dry.
Another likely topic of contention is defining what constitutes an outdoor space versus an indoor space. De Blasio addressed this in his WNYC interview, explaining that restaurants could choose to enclose their outdoor space, but that would turn them into indoor dining spaces, with the relevant capacity restrictions. If restaurants choose to keep their outdoor spaces open but heated, they “can be fuller,” de Blasio said. He did not specify what qualifies a space as enclosed versus open.