NYC’s outdoor dining program will become permanent

Open Restaurants initiative expanded through the winter

A photo illustration of Mayor Bill de Blasio at a restaurant (Getty)
A photo illustration of Mayor Bill de Blasio at a restaurant (Getty)

UPDATED, Sept. 25 2020, 1:21 p.m.: After months of waffling on whether to continue the city’s popular Open Restaurants program, Mayor Bill de Blasio has finally decided that initiative — and thus, year-round outdoor dining — will become a permanent fixture in New York City.

The initiative, along with the city’s Open Streets program, was previously set to expire Oct. 31 before returning next summer. Now, it will continue indefinitely. According to the de Blasio administration, 10,300 restaurants have enrolled in the program since its inception in June.

“I believe this is going to make it a lot easier for restaurants to survive,” de Blasio said on WNYC’s “The Brian Lehrer Show,” where he made the announcement. “This will really help us as an important part of how we recover as a city.”

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The declaration clarified uncertainties that have developed over the course of the outdoor dining program. For example, restaurants may use adjacent properties if the property owners come to a formal agreement. Landlords cannot charge to use the property.

Additionally, electrical heaters will be allowed on the sidewalk and roadways, while propane and natural gas heaters will be allowed on the sidewalk. Only propane heaters will require the fire department’s oversight.

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Tents will also be allowed in a shift from the no-fixed-roof rule. However, they must remain 50 percent open or will have to abide by the 25 percent capacity mandate.

“While our City continues to take precautions to prevent further spread of the coronavirus, it is critical that we give businesses the flexibility they need to hold on through these difficult times,” City Council member Antonio Reynoso said in a statement. “Outdoor dining has not only provided a lifeline for restaurants, it has demonstrated how our public streets can be transformed to create the dynamic spaces that make New York City special.”

Reynoso, along with Council member Keith Powers, introduced a bill earlier this week that would have helped make outdoor dining permanent, in part by legalizing outdoor propane heaters.

“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,” Andrew Rigie, the executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance, said in a statement. “[The decision] is a major step to rebuilding a stronger, more resilient and livable city.”

Indoor dining is set to begin Sept. 30.

This story is breaking. Return to this page for updates.

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