Restaurants will be able to use sidewalks and streets for outdoor dining into mid-2022, as Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed legislation extending the usage of municipal spaces for restaurants on Wednesday.
Eateries pivoted to outdoor dining setups last June, after COVID-19 restrictions limited restaurants to only offering delivery or pickup options. After a year of slowly receding limitations, restaurants are now back to being fully reopened with 100% indoor capacity. But restaurants have been eager to keep their outdoor dining areas, which they have invested heavily in (heaters, elaborate structures) and have helped to increase their revenue with a larger footprint.
“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,” Cuomo said in a statement.
Mayor Bill de Blasio had already announced last fall that the city’s popular “Open Restaurants” program would be made permanent year-round. Changes to zoning text and other legal administrative issues will begin this fall.
“New York City’s restaurant industry was absolutely devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic and thousands of struggling businesses relied on outdoor dining to remain safe while generating critical revenue streams to stay open and support their workers,” said Andrew Rigie, Executive Director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance, who called this “common sense legislation.” He added that there is more that needs to be done, however — “there’s still a long journey toward the industry’s full recovery, and the next step must be for the federal government to replenish the depleted Restaurant Revitalization Fund.”
The federal government announced the closure of the $28.6 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund last week.
While outdoor dining will be a fixture for at least another year, to-go alcohol purchases expired on July 5th. Legislation to extend to-go alcoholic beverages was not voted on, thereby killing the measure, but Assemblymember Patricia Fahy, who co-sponsored the legislation, hopes to revisit the issue again. The measure had been opposed by the New York State Liquor Store Association and the Metro Package Store Association, with the latter group taking a hardline against any takeout alcohol sales (the NYSLSA was fine with to-go drinks).
While it’s unclear whether Albany will reconvene for a special session, Fahy’s office said that she “supports the passage of any bill reinstating alcohol to-go as soon as possible.”