After months of back and forth, New York City finally has an outdoor dining plan. During WNYC’s the Brian Lehrer Show on Friday, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the city’s outdoor dining program will extend through the winter months and be made permanent in NYC. The program was previously set to expire on October 31.
The industry can “really take this model and make it part of the life of the city for years to come,” de Blasio said on the show. “I believe this is going to make it a lot easier for restaurants to survive.”
Under the new rules, restaurants will be allowed to keep sidewalk and curbside dining going indefinitely. The city’s Open Streets program, which designated dozens of city blocks to shut down to car traffic for dining in the street over the summer, will also be made a permanent fixture. “This will really help us as an important part of how we recover as a city,” de Blasio said.
Restaurants will also be able to expand their frontage space to include seating in front of adjacent businesses if those landlords and tenants are open to it, the mayor said. He also stipulated that for restaurants that conduct outdoor dining in the winter, the space has to be kept “more open” to allow enough airflow. If the area is fully enclosed to better heat the space, those dining areas have to adhere to the same seating restrictions as indoor dining, which will start at 25 percent capacity next week.
The mayor did not address whether restaurants would be able to use propane heaters for their outdoor dining spaces, a measure that is currently illegal in the city.
The announcement comes as a major win for restaurant and bar owners across the city, who in conjunction with elected officials, have been calling, writing, and protesting for an outdoor dining extension for months. Mayor de Blasio had previously expressed support for permanent outdoor dining in New York City, but as a recurring summertime tradition, not as the permanent extension he announced today.
Even though indoor dining is set to return on September 30, many restaurant owners still say that outdoor dining is crucial to surviving through the winter. More than 1,700 restaurants and bars have closed in New York City since the start of the pandemic in mid-March, many citing the inability to pay rent from takeout and delivery services alone. Those that remain open have said that they’re clinging to all forms of revenue right now, even those with weeks-out reservations.
In August, de Blasio committed to bringing back outdoor dining next year tentatively starting on June 1, and earlier this month he said the city’s outdoor dining program “should become” a permanent seasonal tradition, recurring annually.