On Thursday, City Council passed a bill that will allow restaurants to permanently offer outdoor dining. The bill garnered the support of Mayor Eric Adams and allows the popular pandemic-era perk to remain in place. Restaurants are able to offer outdoor dining from 10 a.m. until midnight and will now be required to pay fees based on their location and square footage.
“We're very happy to see changes in the city that create more opportunities for people to use the streets,” said Rachel Weinberger, Director of Research Strategy and Peter W. Herman Chair for Transportation at Regional Plan Association (RPA). The RPA has been an advocate of outdoor dining, and the general idea that streets should be more inclusive to the public and not primarily available to private vehicles. “Public spaces need to prioritize people over vehicles and it's appropriate for NYC Department of Transportation (DOT) to administer the program for the foreseeable future,” said Kate Slevin, Executive Vice President at RPA in a statement.
While the bill represents a win for restaurants, it’s not without its caveats. One of its new requirements calls for restaurants to remove their sidewalk sheds from November 30 to March 31, which can be costly and unworth the hassle for some owners. Robert Sanfiz, the executive director of a nonprofit that runs La Nacional, a Spanish restaurant on West 14th Street in Manhattan, said that it could cost his business as much as $25,000 to rebuild his restaurant’s outdoor shed. “I’m okay with seasonal dining, but I find it stunning that they want us to remove the structure entirely,” he told the New York Times.