UPPER WEST SIDE, Manhattan (WABC) -- Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that New York City's "Open Restaurants" initiative will be permanent and year-round.
"I believe this will make it a lot easier for restaurants to survive," he said.
The mayor said a combination of "Open Streets" and "Open Restaurants" will be permanent and affects 87 streets citywide.
"This will really help us, it's an important part of how we recover as a city," he said.
Mayor Bill de Blasio had announced back in August that 9,000 restaurants were taking part in the city's Open Restaurants Program that allows them to offer outdoor dining.
The city estimates it has saved some 80,000 jobs with the program.
"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. Today's announcement to make outdoor dining permanent, to allow the use of heat lamps to keep customers warm outside during the cooler months, and to allow restaurants to utilize adjacent space where feasible so they can accommodate more guests and generate much needed revenue is a major step to rebuilding a stronger, more resilient and livable city. We thank and look forward to working with Mayor de Blasio's administration and the City Council on rolling out this incredibly important expansion of the popular Open Restaurants program," said Andrew Rigie, Executive Director and Robert Bookman, Counsel, NYC Hospitality Alliance.
The "Open Restaurant" Program allows restaurants to promote open space, enhance social distancing during the pandemic, and earn money and keep people employed, the city says.
The city says it will work with the City Council to make the regulatory changes necessary to make the program permanent. Some of the things they need to consider:
The City will allow restaurants to expand seating to the frontage of adjacent properties, as long as the adjacent property owners formally agree to the use of the space for a specified period of time and commit not to charge a fee for its use. The City will work with the State Liquor Authority on any requirements associated with extending alcohol service to the expanded seating in front of adjacent properties. In early October, the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) will issue a template agreement and provide instructions on how to file the agreements. Adjacent properties may not be used prior to the release of official instructions and formal agreements.
As cooler weather arrives, the City will allow restaurants to incorporate heating elements into their outdoor dining setups. Electrical heaters will be allowed on both sidewalk and roadway. Propane and natural gas heaters will be allowed on sidewalks only; they will remain prohibited in roadway seating. Propane will require a permit from FDNY and compliance with FDNY regulations for outdoor use, handling and secure outdoor tank storage overnight. Official guidance on what will be considered approved installation and use of heating elements will be released before the end of September, and restaurants are prohibited from installing heating elements until guidelines are released and followed.
Restaurants will also be permitted to use tent enclosures to keep diners warm. In partial tent enclosures, at least 50% of the tent's side wall surface area must remain open and electrical heaters are allowed. In full tent enclosures, the tent's side walls may be closed but occupancy limitations will be capped at 25% of capacity, and indoor dining guidelines must be followed; electrical heaters will also be allowed. Enclosed structures, such as plastic domes, will be allowed for individual parties and must have adequate ventilation to allow for air circulation.
As the program's duration will now continue through the winter months, and winter weather creates potential for inclement weather to impact road conditions, the City will engage the restaurant industry and other stakeholders to develop additional safety features to further strengthen roadway barriers. To ensure timely implementation, the City will require restaurant owners to comply with new safety features by November 15, 2020. In addition, significant snow events may necessitate the temporary removal of some barriers from the roadway.
The city offers two options for temporary expanded outdoor dining:
- Open Restaurants - Individual food establishments may apply and self-certify to use the sidewalk or curb lane adjacent to their business.
- Open Streets: Restaurants - Community based organizations, BIDs or groups of three (3) or more restaurants on a single block may join together to apply online for weekend-only outdoor dining on streets closed to traffic. More information and locations can be found on the Open Streets: Restaurants program page.
The program began back in Phase 2 of the city's reopening. The city says its approach prioritizes geographic equity and allows us to reach the areas most impacted by COVID-19.
In the meantime, the city is slated to allow 25% capacity indoor dining next week. Such a low percentage is a potential death sentence for the city's more charming yet tiny eating spaces.
"It's been very, very difficult. The 25% capacity indoors will not help small restaurants," said Sachiko Koyama, Narita Restaurant Manager.
Still many are hoping to enjoy the outdoor eating spaces for as long as they can stand the cold.
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