NYS legalizes outdoor dining for another year

outdoor dining
Photo by Todd Maisel

New York restaurants and bars can continue to use public street and sidewalk space for outdoor dining for at least another year, thanks to state legislation signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on July 7.

The new law extends COVID-era emergency regulations which helped businesses weather the devastating tolls and stringent safety guidelines of the pandemic.

“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.

The bill, introduced by Brooklyn State Sen. Roxanne Persaud and Albany Assemblymember Pat Fahy, allows for businesses licensed by the city to use municipal space, such as sidewalks or closed streets.

In June 2020, an executive order by Cuomo allowed businesses to set up al fresco dining while indoor capacity was still limited as part of Phase Two of the state’s reopening.

Those regulations had to be codified into law after Cuomo’s declared Disaster Emergency expired on June 24.

In New York City the Department of Transportation managed the scheme, converting 8,550 parking spaces into street seating, and Mayor Bill de Blasio claimed the effort saved some 100,000 jobs.

DOT is currently working on a permanent version of its Open Restaurants program and plans to start taking long-term applications in winter 2022. 

The executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance, Andrew Rigie, lauded the Governor’s move.

“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,” Rigie said in a statement. “We applaud the Governor for signing this widely supported and common-sense legislation into law that will ensure customers can continue to enjoy a glass of wine while dining alfresco.”