New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation that will allow restaurants to utilize municipal spaces such as sidewalks and streets for outdoor dining. First permitted under an executive order, this law allows restaurants to continue using these public spaces for another year as they recover from the economic devastation brought by the Covid-19 pandemic. Restaurant usage of outdoor public space must meet all federal, state, and local laws, rules, and guidance.
“By extending the much-needed lifeline that allowed restaurants to use outdoor public spaces for seating during the pandemic, New York is ensuring that these small businesses will be able to continue to use these spaces as they work to rebuild and support the revitalization of the Empire State” the governor said.
Restaurants were especially impacted by the pandemic, with many continuing to struggle as New York recovers. Making matters worse for New York eateries, is the fact that the federal Restaurant Revitalization Fund largely ignored them. Only 35 percent of state restaurants, bars, bakeries, and brewpubs had their applications approved. The hope for expanded outdoor dining is that operating at full capacity plus extended space will allow for extra revenue to help establishments catch up on their bills. Unfortunately, for many establishments which fell behind on the rent, extended outdoor dining is probably not enough. “There are debts to investors, debts to employees, and debts to vendors—all of the accounts payable that they have been stringing along on faith until now” restaurant consultant Steve Zagor told Crain’s.
Bafflingly, a major lifeline given to New York restaurants that was not extended was to-go cocktails. This ended when the emergency declaration did (establishments had just one day notice) and was beloved by the restaurant industry and customers alike. State lawmakers proposed various bills to continue to-go cocktails, but each stalled out.