City Planning commission OKs plan to make outdoor dining permanent
The City Planning Commission on Monday voted unanimously in favor of a text amendment that clears the way for outdoor dining to become a permanent part of the city’s life, although the measure must still be approved by the City Council and finally Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Formally speaking, the text amendment would remove “sidewalk cafes” from a zoning resolution.
The New York Restaurant Alliance, representing the city’s hospitality industry, issued a statement saying, in part:
“The passage of today’s text amendment was a critical next step in creating a new permanent outdoor dining program because it lifts certain restrictions on where sidewalk cafes can be located and various aspects governing how they are situated throughout the five boroughs. This will provide our elected leaders and government agencies a clean slate to develop the future specifications of our city’s outdoor dining system that the industry will transition to when the temporary emergency program expires, which is anticipated to happen in late 2022.
“Thank you to the many NYC Hospitality Alliance members who registered to testify and submitted testimony in support of the text amendment at the City Planning Commission hearing last month.”
The outdoor dining program, also known as “Open Restaurants,” was first established by executive order by then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo in June 2020, during a time when indoor dining was forbidden because of COVID-19 and the only way restaurants were able to operate was by offering pickup and delivery.
In particular, restaurants 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 at the time.
Initially, many people thought outdoor dining couldn’t continue through the winter, but many restaurants offered heated outdoor dining sheds.
In July of this year, Cuomo signed legislation that extended the popular program for another year.
Outdoor dining, however, is not universally popular. The New York City Food Policy website reports that 22 New Yorkers are suing the city in order to prevent Open Restaurants from becoming permanent.
In their petition, filed Oct. 18, they claim Open Restaurants introduced accessibility challenges, noise and “lawlessness” to their Manhattan and Brooklyn neighborhoods, the website said.
And according to Bushwick Daily, Bushwick’s community board voted against the amendment, citing sanitary problems, the loss of parking space and other quality-of-life issues.
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