As Covid-19 has ravaged small businesses throughout New York City, much time and effort have been spent to help bars and restaurants, especially through outdoor dining. However, not much was done for other industries fighting to survive. Enter the Open Storefronts program. This allows eligible businesses to conduct activity on sidewalks, on roadways in the Open Streets: Restaurants program, or a combination of both. In addition to businesses engaged in retail trade, repair stores, personal care services, and dry-cleaning and laundry services can use outdoor space for seating, queuing, or display of dry goods. Eligible activities can be found here. Food stores and restaurants can now sell pre-packaged food for pick up outside.
Sitting criteria for sidewalks:
- Objects placed on the sidewalk must be up against the wall of the business or as close as possible
- Sidewalk objects and activities may not exceed business frontage
- Must leave an 8′ clear path for pedestrians. Eligible businesses who can currently display merchandise as-of-right or with a stoop line stand license can continue to do so under existing regulations and do not need to certify under Open Storefronts for the existing eligible merchandise
- Must conduct eligible activities and place outdoor objects no more than 5’ from the property line
- Outdoor objects must be at least 3′ from the adjacent restaurants, or 1’ away from other businesses participating in the Open Storefronts program
- Outdoor objects and goods cannot block subway grates, fire hydrants, utility hardware, Siamese water connection, bus stop waiting areas, subway entrances, and fire exits. Vault entrances not exclusively accessible by the business can only be blocked in coordination with other tenants. Objects cannot block doors, including entry and exit doors to other spaces, and cannot block driveways or garage entrances unless they are used exclusively by the business participating in the Open Storefronts program
- For clear path purposes, parking meters, traffic signs and tree pits with flush gratings (without tree guards) are exempt. All other above-grade structures are considered obstructions
- Merchandise placed outside cannot exceed 5′ in height above the level of the sidewalk
- Collapsible tents and umbrellas with weighted base must have at least two (2) sides open and must be installed per manufacturer’s instructions. A single area or area of combined/tied together tents and umbrellas should not exceed 400 square feet in size
- Tents and umbrellas should not be used during inclement weather such as high wind conditions. Sign up for DOB’s Weather Advisory Subscription.
- Outdoor objects and goods, including tents and umbrellas, must be provided by the applicant and must be removed from the sidewalk when a business is closed, excluding stoop line stands (in line with current regulation). Permanent structures cannot be built or placed on the sidewalk
- Hours of operation will be normal business hours
- For designated Open Streets: Restaurants corridors, the Open Storefronts program will also permit businesses to use the curbside lane to conduct business activities during the hours that Open Streets: Restaurants is in effect.
This program was originally piloted from October 30th to December 31st and was designed to increase local shopping during the holiday season. The program has been extended and will now run until September 30th, 2021.
Hopefully, this makes it easier for New Yorkers to shop locally but, having customers, merchandise, deliveries, pedestrians, cyclists, drivers, restaurants, and more all compete for smaller and smaller spaces does not seem like the solution storefront businesses were looking for. To that end, as NYC seems determined to recreate indoor activities outside year-round, it is paramount they provide enough curbside and parking space for commercial deliveries to occur in a safe and timely manner.