Mayor de Blasio announced Friday that the Open Restaurants program will be extended year-round. The extension also applies to Open Streets: Restaurants, which currently offers restaurants expanded space on 85 car-free streets citywide on certain days.
“Open Restaurants was a big, bold experiment in supporting a vital industry and reimagining our public space. And it worked,” said de Blasio. “As we begin a long-term recovery, we’re proud to extend and expand this effort to keep New York City the most vibrant city in the world. It’s time for a new tradition.”
The move is part of New York City’s Recovery Agenda. According to the city, the Open Restaurants program has enrolled more than 10,300 establishments since June and has saved an estimated 90,000 jobs citywide.
To make the plan possible, the city will make several efforts, such as allowing restaurants to incorporate heating elements into their outdoor dining setups during the winter months.
Restaurants will be allowed to have electrical heaters on sidewalks and roadways. Propane and natural gas heaters will be allowed on sidewalks, but they will remain prohibited in roadway seating. They will also require a permit from FDNY and compliance with FDNY regulations for outdoor use, handling and secure outdoor tank storage overnight.
Eateries will be permitted to use tents to keep their patrons warm. In partial tent enclosures, at least 50 percent of the tent’s side wall surface area must remain open and electrical heaters are allowed. In full tent enclosures, the tent’s side walls may be closed but occupancy limitations will be capped at 25 percent of capacity, and indoor dining guidelines must be followed. Electrical heaters will also be allowed.
“As we move into the colder months, we will join our sister agencies and the City Council to come up with clear guidance – working closely with the restaurant industry, continuing to make sure that we are of course driven by safety first,” said Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg.
The city will work with the City Council to make the regulatory changes necessary to make the program permanent. It will also engage the restaurant industry and other stakeholders to develop additional safety features to further strengthen roadway barriers.
Local organizations are hoping this will save businesses until a vaccine is created for COVID-19.
“Outdoor dining has been a monumental success for restaurants all around New York City,” said Randy Peers, president and CEO of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. “Mayor de Blasio’s decision to safely extend outdoor dining year-round will not only provide a vital lifeline to our struggling restaurants, but will also enhance the vibrancy of our neighborhoods well into the future.”
Groups that have been seeking answers and solutions to helping these business owners are also pleased with the announcement.
“This is an important step for restaurants as we struggle to recover from an unprecedented crisis,” said Relief Opportunities for All Restaurants. “Expanding outdoor dining and allowing us to use propane heaters will provide a lifeline as restaurants reopen and adjust to the new reality in which we find ourselves. There are no silver bullets as restaurants recover but this step will benefit an industry that is such a critical part of life in the city.”