- New York City will expand its outdoor dining program, which was set to expire Oct. 31, permanently and year-round, Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Friday during WNYC's The Brian Lehrer Show. Over 10,000 restaurants currently participate in the city’s Open Restaurants program, which the mayor said has saved almost 100,000 jobs. Open Streets, which has allowed many city blocks to entirely close off to traffic for dining, will also be made permanent, de Blasio said.
- Eighty-seven streets participate in the program, which allows restaurants to use sidewalks and streets to provide outdoor dining, and the mayor said he expects the program to add additional streets in the future. Restaurants will also have the option of adding propane or natural gas heaters to their outdoor spaces or fully enclose the space to provide more heating, but a full tent enclosure would fall under indoor dining restrictions, which are currently at 25%, according to the NYC Hospitality Alliance.
- The expansion of New York City’s outdoor dining program is expected to provide an additional lifeline to restaurants as they prepare for the colder winter months. Other cities including Chicago and Washington, DC, have created programs or grants to help restaurants find ways to maintain outdoor dining as well.
With the city restricting indoor dining for a bulk of the pandemic, outdoor dining has become crucial to the survival of local restaurants. Indoor dining reopens Wednesday in New York City, but with capacity restrictions, which aren't necessarily the same as outdoor dining capacity caps. With a bulk of area restaurants saying they cannot afford to pay full rent, the additional revenue stream of outdoor dining through the winter will be key.
"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," New York City Hospitality Alliance Executive Director Andrew Rigie and Counsel Robert Bookman said in a statement.
The mayor said he expects high participation rates going forward as well. "This is going to make it a lot easier for restaurants to survive," de Blasio said.
The city will also create additional guidance for stronger and sturdier setups in the coming weeks, and the Department of Transportation will provide application forms that restaurants will need to fill out if they want to expand into an adjacent space — so long as their neighboring tenant agrees, according to the NYC Hospitality Alliance. The alliance also said that restaurants should hold off on making any changes until requirements are finalized.