In a win for the restaurant industry, the City Planning Commission on Monday voted to allow Open Restaurants, and the sheds that come with the program, to become permanent.
The zoning text amendment it approved wipes out geographic restrictions on sidewalk cafes in the city. The vote was 10-0 with one recusal.
The program, created during the pandemic to aid restaurants (but also benefiting their landlords), allows eateries to set up tables on sidewalks and in the parking lanes, protected by sheds.
However, it will not be the Wild West. To be eligible for a sidewalk café, restaurants would need to meet physical criteria, such as “clear path” requirements, including ensuring that tables and chairs are at appropriate distances from fire hydrants and neighboring businesses, according to the city.
The proposal has received backlash from local politicians and residents. In October, 23 residents filed a lawsuit, claiming that outdoor dining increased trash, noise and rat sightings. A group of lawmakers made similar remarks in a statement calling for stricter limits on outdoor dining.
The commission’s vote is not the final hurdle for Open Restaurants. The text amendment now heads to the City Council for a public hearing and vote. It also needs the Department of Transportation to finish the design and regulations of a permanent program.
Today’s vote was applauded by the New York City Hospitality Alliance, which represents the city’s restaurant industry.
“Since its inception, Open Restaurants has saved more than 100,000 industry jobs and countless small businesses from financial collapse, and this yes vote is a critically important first step towards developing a sustainable future for this very popular program,” Andrew Rigie, executive director of the group, said in a statement.