Reopen News: City Council pushes to expand outdoor dining in New York City

MANHATTAN, New York (WABC) -- While New York City waits for the green light to start reopening, there is a plan in place that could give restaurants more room to serve people outside when they do re-open.

Speaker Corey Johnson, Council Member Antonio Reynoso, and Council Members announced legislation on Thursday requiring opening up spaces throughout the five boroughs for outdoor dining.

NYC Hospitality Alliance, NYS Latino Restaurants, Bars, & Lounges Association and restaurant owners joined the Council in a press conference announcing the legislation.

"Expanding outdoor dining space will not only help these restaurants thrive financially but give our City a sense of normalcy. The restaurant industry is a huge part of New York City. No matter where you live, you love your local restaurants. This legislation will help give all New Yorkers better access to enjoy and support their local restaurants," said Speaker Johnson.

Even withouth the legislation, some people got a head start on Wednesday night.

On Restaurant Row in Hell's Kitchen's theater district, some patrons were spotted sitting at a table outside in the warm summer sun and having sangria and tapas.

"We're trying to stay safe and keep people in their own little groups, there aren't many cars coming through, there's no Broadway," restaurant manager Judith Shapiro said.

The legislation would have the city identify open spaces like sidewalks, streets, and plazas where restaurants and bars can serve outside -- and create a streamlined permitting process.

Restaurant owner Jeremy Wladis on the Upper West Side said he will take all the help he can get.

"If rent was free, we couldn't make it right now, we can't pay anything but the team and the food and beverage," Wladis said.

What he is asking for on Columbus Avenue is just one lane on each side of the avenue, and for only part of the day: from lunch to dinner.

Even that wouldn't be enough to make up for the losses, but it would at least give them a fighting chance.

"Restaurants cannot wait any longer," said Andrew Rigie, the executive director of NYC Hospitality Alliance. "They need money, they need customers, and you can tell New Yorkers are out and about. There's beautiful weather, so they're going to be out regardless."

Mayor Bill de Blasio backs the idea and identified several official bar-heavy areas where he thinks this could work.

"It is not part of phase one, but it is something we'll have more to say on soon," de Basio said.


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