New York City moved one step closer to making outdoor dining permanent, when the City Council passed a zoning amendment that will remove geographic restrictions on where sidewalk cafés can be set up in New York City. The amendment was submitted by City Department of Transportation (DOT) who will oversee the program. DOT will start the rulemaking process, which will lay out more details about what outdoor dining can look like and how businesses might be permitted. The Open Restaurants Program began as a temporary measure to help struggling eateries during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. The program is set to expire at the end of 2022, with many advocates and legislators hoping to have a permanent program in place beginning in 2023.
New York City states that 12,000 restaurants have taken advantage of the program nearly half of which are in Manhattan. The hope for this amendment is that more of the outer borough establishments can take advantage of the program.
Though popular with many, the initiative does have detractors. Many residents complain about increased noise, increased rats, and unsightly streets. In fact, many of those unsightly sheds are empty as the establishment wound up closing anyway, or they do not use them in the winter months. Others have raised concerns about outdoor dining sheds cutting down on sidewalk and parking space. Though it seems like the outdoor dining sheds will not be part of the permanent program. That said, it is becoming harder and harder for trucks to make deliveries as space is continuously lost. According to the NYC DOT, there are 28,600 overall commercial parking spaces citywide. The same study included a daily influx of 120,000 daily delivery trips into the same area. New York City must tie this program to an increase in commercial loading zones. Until that is set, there must be leniency to parking tickets given to vehicles impacted by outdoor dining structures. The permitting process for Open Restaurants should also be tied, in some way, to the Off Hour Delivery program.