Outdoor dining is leveling up.
The Rockwell Group, in partnership with NYC Hospitality Alliance and private funders, established Dine Out NYC this summer to design a modular outdoor dining setup. Wednesday, they shut down Mott Street to debut the socially distanced dining area.
The designs, which are open-source, feature plexiglass between tables and spaces for sanitation equipment, in addition to flooring, shading and lighting.
“What architects have to contribute to the conversation, I think, is less about exactly what things look like than how they function and work and support human activity,” said David Rockwell, the founder and President of the Rockwell Group.
The assistance for Chinatown restaurants — which have been hit especially hard by the pandemic — is pro bono, but could catch on as a business line. Many restaurants with thin margins have been trying to survive by minimizing costs and maximizing outdoor dining, moving tables and chairs to any available sidewalk and curb space.
“This does allow people to reimagine what the streetscape would look like in a permanent outdoor dining situation,” said Andrew Rigie, executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance, a trade group for restaurants, bars and nightclubs. “If small business owners knew that this was going to be a long-term permanent program, we’d continue to see more expansive and beautiful installations. Each business needs to figure out what works for them.”
To allow for more outdoor dining during the pandemic, New York City lifted some restrictions on where tables could be placed and fast-tracked the approval process, which normally takes months. While architects have been envisioning restaurant designs in a post-pandemic world, some restaurateurs have been hoping that outdoor dining is here to stay.
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Photos by Emily Andrews and Vincent Bezuidenhout for Rockwell Group