New York City’s Outdoor Dining Is Changing the Face and Behavior of the Streets

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Since indoor dining has been suspended indefinitely, Governor Andrew Cuomo gave New York City restaurants the green light to have outdoor dining as part of the city’s Phase 2 of reopening on June 22.

According to New York magazine, restaurateurs must apply for a permit that allows them to expand out with regular sidewalk cafe regulations, as well as the use of curbs and adjacent parking lots. New York City stats claim that over 8,300 restaurants have applied for an outdoor dining certification, leaving restaurant owners scarmbling to make drastic changes to their seating arrangements in order to get approved.

Ori Kushner, owner of the East Village sandwich shop, Foxface told the New York Times that he lost two business days and over $3,000 trying to meet city inspectors regulations. “Anybody who tried to do the right thing the first time, and is trying to do the right thing now, is spending thousands of dollars on this,” he said.

Restaurants across the city are getting creative in order to meet city guidelines. A Curbed.com article shows business owners using all sorts of materials from shipping pallets to tomato can planters to create a divide. These innovations are transforming New York City’s sleek urban architecture into a more kitchy or “cottagecore” aesthetic.

Although the new sidewalk seating is pulling many New Yorkers back out into the streets, there is a bit of controversy surrounding these outdoor restaurants. Mayor de Blasio announced that (in addition to sidewalks, patios, and curb lanes, and plazas) restaurants can utilize the 45 miles of city streets that are currently blocked off to cars during the weekdays between 8am and 8pm.

Due to the influx of eager customers and lack of seating space, some restaurants are having trouble following all of the city guidelines. “Only 8 percent of applicants for roadway seating have received cease and desist orders after initial violations, which are only temporary so long as the business makes the fix,” according to City Hall.

Between the reduction of on-street parking and loud cars zooming by, enjoying a nice meal out comes with its setbacks. According to Timeout.com, “Unless you’re seated at a table, you must wear a mask or you could be denied service.” Customers must also follow social distancing rules and may be subject to an on-site health screening.

However, they are not the only ones having to follow these rules. New York State Law is requiring that masks be worn at all times, and those in the service industry are finding it hard to work in the summer heat.

“I can already tell you that this is a horrible experience for me,” said a worker at an Italian restaurant in Morningside Heights.

“It’s super hot,” he continued. “You are dripping with sweat. Your face is melting because you’re wearing a mask, and you cannot put the goddamn gloves on because your hands are wet and sweaty, also. It takes a lot of time to keep those necessary measures, and you have to also go on and keep serving people. This is very frustrating — it’s a no-joke experience. And the moment rain starts, there’s no work, period,” he told the Gothamist.com.

Frommers, a travel website, ranked New York City the seventh best city to eat outdoors because of its abundance of rooftop eateries and elevated patios. This list also includes international destinations that are no stranger to outdoor dining such as Barcelona, Paris and London; cities that are known for their open-air restaurants.

Many New Yorkers are just happy to be getting out of the house, and take the outdoor dining drawbacks with a grain of salt. Restaurant owners have been eagerly awaiting the day they could open shop and welcome customers back.

“It’s amazing, it’s a block party,” says 12 Chairs manager Manuel Cicle. “I would like the indoor dining to come, but if it doesn’t, we’re doing good with the outdoor seating!”

The city will extend the Open Restaurant program through Oct. 31, meaning that the hodgepodge of eateries will only grow in popularity in the coming months. “We’re gonna make sure we save restaurants,” said de Blasio.

Article Written By Jeremy Wooldridge

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