Brooklyn Boro

Popular outdoor dining extended for another year

A COVID-19 necessity that caught on with the public

July 7, 2021 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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It looks like all those outdoor dining sheds that can be seen outside restaurants from one end of the borough to another will be there for another year — at least.

There have always been some restaurants offering “sidewalk cafes,” but the concept exploded during the pandemic as the state and city put limits on indoor dining. Even though there are now few restrictions on indoor dining, outdoor dining enclosures caught on and are as popular as ever.

Now, keeping up with the trend, Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday signed legislation that will allow restaurants to utilize municipal spaces like sidewalks and streets for outdoor dining for another year.

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An outdoor dining tent at the Heights Café on Montague Street, Brooklyn Heights.
Eagle file photo by Mary Frost

The use of public spaces, like sidewalks and streets, for outdoor dining was first granted by Cuomo under an executive order, but the new law puts the legalistic seal of approval on it.

“By extending the much-needed lifeline that allowed restaurants to use outdoor public spaces for seating during the pandemic, New York is ensuring that these small businesses will be able to continue to use these spaces as they work to rebuild and support the revitalization of the Empire State,” Cuomo said.

Initially issued in June 2020 and expiring after a year, the governor’s executive order allowed restaurants and bars to serve their patrons food or beverages on-premises in outdoor space while their indoor capacity was limited. 

Specifically, these establishments were permitted to expand the licensed premises to use public space such as sidewalks or closed streets, subject to reasonable limitations and procedures set by the State Liquor Authority and the safety and supervision plans of the local municipality, the Governor’s Office said.

Initially, many people thought outdoor dining couldn’t continue through the winter, but many restaurants offered heated outdoor dining sheds. In particular, Industry City offered five heated outdoor-dining sheds housing 38 food vendors, according to a previous Eagle story.

Outdoor dining at L&B Spumoni Gardens in Bensonhurst in October.
AP file photo by Kathy Willens

With the conclusion of the declared Disaster Emergency, the executive orders must be codified by the Legislature to continue in effect or rely on other existing regulatory power of a state agency. 

In this case, the legislation was necessary to allow the State Liquor Authority the discretion to continue the use of this space without prior approval, according to the Governor’s Office.

State Sen. Roxanne Persaud (D-East, Southeast Brooklyn) said, “I applaud Governor Cuomo’s signing of legislation to extend outdoor dining and beverage sales for on-site consumption on sidewalks and adjacent slivers of municipal land for an additional year.”


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