“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,” explained the mayor on WNYC’s “The Brian Lehrer Show.” “This has been, I think, an extraordinarily positive experiment.”
The initiative, which allows bars and restaurants to provide outdoor dining and drink service utilizing parts of the sidewalk and curb parking in front of their storefronts, has been critical for those mom-and-pop shops that have managed to survive devastating revenue losses brought on by the pandemic.
More than 10,000 establishments throughout the five boroughs have participated in the program since it was implemented during the second phase of the pathway to reopening.
According to city officials, Open Restaurants has saved an estimated 90,000 jobs in the food service industry citywide.
“Outdoor dining has transformed New York City’s streetscape for the better and has been a critical lifeline for thousands of small businesses and jobs throughout the five boroughs during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Andrew Rigie, executive director of NYC Hospitality Alliance.
He lauded last week’s announcement as “a major step to rebuilding a stronger, more resilient and livable city.”
Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce CEO Randy Peers echoed those sentiments, predicting the extension of Open Restaurants will “enhance the vibrancy of our neighborhoods well into the future.”
Under the new rules, restaurants and bars will be able to set up tent enclosures, in addition to heaters as the days grow cold. They will also be permitted to set up seating in front of adjacent properties, as long as the landowner formally agrees to allow use of the space free of charge.
In anticipation of potential impacts on street conditions caused by winter weather, the city has committed to working with stakeholders in order to strengthen roadway barriers with additional safety features.
Restaurant owners will be required to comply with the new regulations by November 15.
Overall, the development represents a win for small business owners and advocates who have been rallying for months with the support of local elected officials to demand a comprehensive outdoor dining plan before Open Restaurants was set to expire next month.
The city is slated to initiate a return to indoor dining at 25 percent capacity this week.
Still, many acknowledge that these limited measures may not be enough to ensure the survival of New York City’s vibrant and diverse restaurant industry.
In recent weeks, restaurants and bars in Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island have filed lawsuits against the state over what they see as discrimination in its handling of indoor dining, as restaurants outside the five boroughs were allowed to resume indoor dining months ago.
While reacting positively to the news regarding Open Restaurants, Queens Chamber of Commerce CEO Tom Grech simultaneously implored Congress to pass the RESTAURANTS Act, bipartisan legislation that would allocate $120 billion in relief grants for the food-and-drink establishments nationwide.
“According to the research we have been relying on, we must allow 50 percent indoor dining by October 15, 75 percent by November 1, and 100 percent by Thanksgiving for our city's restaurants to recover,” he noted. “We must do everything in our power to creatively support our restaurants and our small businesses to ensure they continue to be a part of our city's future success.”