The New York City Council is currently discussing what exactly the future of outdoor dining will look like in New York. In their most recent meeting on Tuesday, February 8, a bill was brought under consideration that would make the “Open Restaurants” program officially permanent for years to come.
“Open Restaurants” first began in the summer of 2020, as a way to help local restaurants regain some of the business lost to the onslaught of COVID-19 (and the elimination of indoor dining). It temporarily allowed restaurants to create extra seating opportunities on the streets and sidewalks in front of their establishments, which has now extended almost two years.
And though it undoubtedly helped (if not saved) the industry, the more elaborate dining structures have caused some controversy. Many local New Yorkers have complained about noise, more rodents and trash, and lost accessibility to the streets/sidewalk space.
Legislation to make in-street dining permanent is currently being deliberated (with no voting date set as of yet), but either way, the sheds and cabins are probably on their last legs. As the City Council and NYC Department of Transportation work to create a more robust system to handle outdoor dining (including restaurant plans that would have to be approved by the city first), NYC DOT Director of Open Restaurants Julie Schipper made their position quite clear.
Here is what she said at the meeting, as shared by ABC7:
We don’t envision sheds in the permanent program. We are not planning for that. What would be in the roadway as barriers as tents or barriers, but not these full houses that you are seeing in the street. One of the main goals of this program is to really have a program that can last for years and years and something something we saw during COVID, you cannot cannot eat indoors. You had to eat outside in all weather. But that won’t be the case going forward.
She continued, “This program is really being planned for a post COVID scenario, where you can dine outside when that feels nice and comfortable. But you won’t need to be in a house on the street.”