ABOVE: Rendering of proposed plan for outdoor seating at The Gull NYC in Astoria. (Source: Rockwell Group)
BY SARA KREVOY
With all eyes set on beginning “Phase Two” of reopening the city on June 22, Big Apple elected officials are calling on the city to move beyond triage mentality and proactively greet the reality of a “new” New York.
The City Council recently introduced a bill that will pave the way for restaurants across the five boroughs to rebound from financial crisis, allowing them to the offset the loss of indoor seating as a result of social distancing restrictions.
“As New Yorkers, we have so many things to brag about, but I think our city’s amazing and diverse restaurants are at the top of everyone’s list,” said City Council Speaker Corey Johnson. “We must do everything we can to help this iconic, and now struggling, industry get through this painful time.”
The Council’s legislation would first require the Department of Transportation to identify local streets, sidewalks plazas and other open spaces that restaurants could suitably use to expand.
Next, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene would establish safety protocols for cleanliness and social distancing. Only then would bars and restaurants have the opportunity to apply for permission to operate al fresco. Additionally, the new bill guarantees that restaurants already located in areas zoned for sidewalk cafes will receive temporary sidewalk permits at no cost.
At a City Council hearing on the legislation on June 4, Chamber CEO and President Thomas Grech offered testimony in favor of the proposal.
“Restaurants are a crucial part of the New York City economy, particularly in Queens,” he said. “This industry, which has been devastated by the pandemic, needs our support immediately. We must allow dining establishments to reopen in a way that is safe for both their staff and their customers, and allows for as much social distancing as possible.”
Later that same day, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced curbside seating for restaurants would be part of Phase Two of the city’s reopening. As New York City prepares to reopen, Mayor Bill de Blasio today announced plans to temporarily use open space to support the city’s restaurants while maintaining social distancing.
Once the city enters Phase Two of reopening, restaurants will be able to serve customers in outdoor seating areas without enduring a cumbersome application and approval process.
“New York’s restaurants are part of what make us the greatest city in the world,” said de Blasio. “They’ve taken a hit in our fight against COVID-19 and there’s no recovery without them. Our Open Restaurants plan will help these businesses maximize their customer base while maintaining the social distancing we need to beat this crisis once and for all.”