New Yorkers, get used to outdoor dining as the council votes to keep it
Beyoncé’s mother Tina Knowles may have just ushered in a new era in New York when she said in a now-famous Instagram post, “Hi! We’re at a little sidewalk cafe in Paris. Not really, just New York City.”
Why? Because New York’s City Council passed its outdoor dining bill with a vote of 34-11, making sidewalk and street seating a permanent fixture among city restaurants.
Al fresco dining among NYC restaurants began in earnest during the pandemic to offer open-air dining options in lieu of an enclosed indoor setup. Restaurants will be allowed to continue offering an outdoor setup under a new licensing system.
Outdoor dining may be operational from 10 a.m. until midnight. But this only applies from April until November as the structure will have to be taken down come winter and reinstalled back in spring.
Additional expenses for restaurant owners
Already, some restaurateurs are calling it a costly undertaking. On top of these maintenance costs, the program overseen by the Department of Transportation would require a license from the city as well as a fee based on the restaurant’s location and square footage, with higher fees in Manhattan south of 125th Street.
Under this measure, the city will also closely regulate al fresco structures, even going as far as taking down abandoned or ugly dining sheds.
According to figures from the Department of Transportation, before the pandemic, only 1,400 restaurants had sidewalk café licenses, all mostly in wealthier neighborhoods. The number of participating restaurants has since increased to over 12,000 including those newly set up in low-income neighborhoods.
You may also like: New Study Crowns New York as the Top City in America for 2023
Tina Knowles was not wrong to mistake New York for Paris in the context of outdoor dining. Some critics are already comparing Paris’s restaurants’ outdoor dining setup dropout rate since it implemented a similar measure last year. From 12,000 participating restaurants in 2021, it decreased to a mere 4,000 establishments with al fresco options.
Other than the worrisome cost of building and taking down sheds in the winter and summer, some who are calling to retain the structure all season long are already fearful about how this might affect what little vegetation the city has.
“I can’t tell you how many bushes and trees are going to meet their demise,” Robert Sanfiz, the executive director of a nonprofit behind West 14th Spanish restaurant La Nacional told the New York Times in an interview.