New concerns raised over NYC's outdoor dining structures

NEW YORK (WABC) -- There are new concerns over outdoor dining structures that have become a way of life for restaurants and their customers during the pandemic.

From the homeless seeking shelter inside to the restaurants that closed and left the structures behind -questions remain over what to do with them now.

In the beginning it was hard to imagine just how it would work, but over time New Yorkers have settled in.

The setups don't faze us one bit, they have been a blessing and now, at times, a curse.

"People are coming and drinking their coffee, eating their food, it gets a little messy so we're looking to fully close off our patio at night," said Ollie owner Hank Parrot.

Parrot's outdoor setup at Ollie in Tribeca is wide open, and like so many others in the city, become a place for the homeless to stay.

At times, even while a restaurant is open, it's considered shared space.

"I said I don't have a problem with it as long as you're out by a certain time," Parrot said.

Last winter two men asked Peter if they could sleep in his outdoor space at Johnny's Bar on Greenwich Avenue.

"Then things got out of hand, don't know if they were off their meds or what, I had to ask them to leave," said Peter Gonzalez, owner of Johnny's Bar.

Nearly 12,000 eateries are taking place in the city's Open Restaurant initiative and about 1,200 have roadway set ups, 4,300 on the sidewalks and just over 6,000 a combo.

The Village Den is permanently closed but the structure still stands. The Department of Transportation says when it comes to business like that, it has partnered with Sanitation to remove 19 sheds.

"It's expensive to get rid of all that stuff carted out, so I imagine if somebody closes they will ditch the structure," Parrot said.

Officials are now focused on transforming what was an emergency program into a permanent one and looking for input in terms what worked and didn't.

"Last winter there were no options so you put all eggs in that basket this winter people can sit inside," Parrot said.

They want guidance so they can decide whether to invest in the structures, add electric heaters, ways to secure the sheds -- which at one point were a lifeline and are now a way of life.

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