There’s still some way to go before restaurants in New York can fully reopen (they will be in phase three of the plan), but the struggling industry is hoping the city will help in the form of outdoor seating. As Eater First reported last month, restaurateurs are asking the mayor to expand his current open streets from pedestrians to outdoor dining to allow for greater social distancing. And now local elected officials are joining the call, hoping that sidewalks, streets and parking spaces can be used for outdoor service from this weekend. The call comes after crowds were spotted gathering on sidewalks and drinking since the city allowed bars and restaurants to sell take-out drinks.
Today, New York City Council Members Ben Kallos and Keith Powers joined Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer to address a letter to Mayor de Blasio requesting that “the city immediately grant temporary permission prior to Memorial Day weekend for bars and restaurants to use sidewalks and streets to serve customers safely for the benefit of all.” Despite warnings from the NYPD, the letter says Upper East Side residents were “congregating outside facilities without face coverings or observing social distancing, putting essential workers, themselves and communities at risk. passers-by”.
Therefore, the letter asks the mayor to open up certain sections of parking lots and streets for service and outdoor seating. Due to the scene in the neighborhood over the past weekend, officials are requesting that the following Upper East Side locations be rolled out before this weekend:
- Second Avenue from 49th to 53rd Street, 55th to 58th Street, 66th to 70th Street, 73rd to 79th Street, and 81st to 92nd Street.
- First Avenue from East 49th to 64th Street, 68th to 69th Street, 73rd to 78th Street, 81st to 84th Street, and 87th to 89th Street.
- York Avenue from 75th to 79th Street and from 84th to 86th Street.
It seems that the Ministry of Transport is at least somewhat on board with the idea. Last week, gothamist shared the news that during a city council meeting, DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg responded positively to the idea of a larger outdoor seating plan: “An interagency group is looking at how you would manage, authorize and speak to the restaurant association.”
It already exists a bill this was presented to City Council who would suspend sidewalk cafe license fees for the remainder of the year, a small step that would hopefully help more restaurants participate in an eventual open dining plan.
There are no details yet on when a more formal plan might be introduced, however, gothamist notes that Trottenberg told Councilman Keith Powers, whose district includes parts of Midtown, “I agree that your district might be a great place to start testing this. It would be a wonderful way to help restaurants start generating business again and bring a socially distanced life back to our streets.
Editor’s note: This story was originally published on May 13, 2020 and has been updated.