City Council passes permanent plan for outdoor dining in New York

REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

Outdoor dining will become a permanent fixture on the streets of New York, the City Council declared Thursday.

The city’s legislators approved a bill (Intro. 2127-A) that continues the program launched in June to boost business at eateries across the five boroughs amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The initiative will be extended through September of next year, and then replaced by a permanent outdoor dining plan to come.

The legislation also clears the way for restaurants to use portable heaters in outdoor dining spaces so restaurants may continue to serve guests during colder weather in the fall and winter.

Brooklyn/Queens Councilman Antonio Reynoso introduced the legislation back in September; 10 other lawmakers co-sponsored the bill. He called its passage “a huge win for the restaurant industry and its workers, diners and the morale of residents.”

“New York City’s outdoor dining program has been a remarkable success,” Reynoso said. “Now, by making outdoor dining permanent and allowing for the use of outdoor heating lamps, my bill will allow for continuation of the program into the colder months.”

The bill now awaits Mayor Bill de Blasio’s signature.

The Queens Chamber of Commerce applauded the passage of the bill on Thursday.

“Restaurants are the backbone of New York City’s economy, and the economies of neighborhoods throughout the five boroughs, but the past several months have been devastating to the industry,” said Thomas Grech, CEO of the Queens Chamber of Commerce. “Outdoor dining has not just been a hit with restaurantgoers, it has allowed our cherished neighborhood establishments to keep New Yorkers employed and bring in some desperately needed revenue. We are delighted that the program has been made permanent. We are also pleased to see the Council taking proactive steps to ensure that the program can continue as we approach the colder months by allowing use of electric and propane heaters.”

The arrival of COVID-19 in New York forced restaurants to close their doors to patrons back in March due to capacity restrictions. Though many dining spots shuttered, others continued on into the spring serving customers through delivery or takeout service.

In the spring, the City Council and de Blasio approved a program allowing restaurants to set up curbside café seating outside their establishments in the street. This enabled restaurants to once again serve patrons once New York City entered phase two of its reopening on June 22.

While outdoor dining proved quite popular across the city in bringing diners back to their favorite eateries, the entire industry continues to struggle amid the pandemic. The New York City Hospitality Alliance previously reported that far too many restaurateurs are well behind on their rent, and only able to make partial payments to their landlords.

Andrew Rigie, the alliance’s executive director, applauded the City Council for passing the permanent outdoor dining bill, but repeated calls for federal relief for New York’s struggling dining sector.

“Outdoor dining has been monumental to reviving thousands of struggling restaurants able to avail themselves of the program, protecting jobs and returning a sense of vibrancy to our neighborhoods,” Rigie said. “Although outdoor dining has been overwhelmingly successful, the city’s restaurant industry is still on life support and its survival depends on safely expanding indoor dining occupancy to 50 percent soon, and the federal government immediately passing The RESTAURANTS Act.”

The RESTAURANTS Act, introduced earlier this month in the House of Representatives, would steer $120 billion in financial aid to struggling eateries across America.

This story originally appeared on amny.com

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