New York’s pandemic-era outdoor dining program will become permanent.
The pandemic has been truly hard, but some could say that New York City has seen tougher days as any, with The New York Times estimating in August that 2,800 small businesses had closed in New York City since March 1, a third of which were restaurants and bars, according to data it gleaned from Yelp. In April, the New York State Restaurant Association predicted that as many as 11 percent of the state’s restaurants and bars could close by the end of that month, totaling roughly 5,500 establishments
As a responde to seeing lots of restaurants quietly closing in the city, a program called Open Restaurants was installed in June, which allowed more than 10,300 restaurants to spill outside onto sidewalks, streets, and public spaces previously not available to them. It was supposed to sunset at the end of October, but the city considers it an invaluable lifeline to the battered sector. Now, as COVID-19 is relentless across the country, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that outside dining will continue across the Big Apple, but while outdoor dining is relatively simple in the summer, it’s a logistical nightmare in the winter in the city where the supply of heat lamps is low and legal barriers around heaters for commercial use remain unresolved. Morning Brew writes that some are getting creative, with places like Café du Soleil, in the Upper West Side of Manhattan, who installed 18 geodesic tents, or “space bubbles,” to help block winter elements from pelting patrons as they enjoy some antipasti, however, most establishments don’t have the resources to go all out like that.
According to NY Eater, without more federal aid or long-term solutions for the beleaguered hospitality industry — including the $120 billion bill to support independent restaurants — many closures are likely in store. “With each new phase of reopening, we’ve been looking for light at the end of the tunnel, but there’s no phase five,” says Kwong of Pearl River Mart. “We’ve hit the end of the road.” Indoor dining resumes at 25% capacity on September 30. Partial indoor service alone is not enough to prevent a restaurant industry calamity.