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New Yorkers may be able to dine outside at restaurants in July

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New York Mayor Bill de Blasio is targeting a July relaunch of outdoor dining.

More than 10 weeks after the city went on lockdown, the mayor is preparing for the June 8 start of phase one of reopening and said he anticipates reaching the second phase in July. Restaurants are a key part of New York City’s economy, de Blasio said Thursday at a press briefing.

The city’s Transportation and Planning Departments will help create curbside restaurants to allow eateries for the first time to convert adjacent parking spots into more seating. No permits will be needed to certify the street-side restaurants, de Blasio said.

“We will provide a massive expansion of curbside seating and an expansion of open streets,” de Blasio said. “We’ll do what it takes to help this key part of New York City, its economy, the wellspring of the livelihood of hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers, to come back strong.”

The mayor spoke as restaurant owners testified at a City Council hearing on how city streets could be turned into dining corridors. Some council members have cited Stone Street in lower Manhattan, a closed street with outdoor dining not far from the New York Stock Exchange, as a model. Owners of establishments have pushed for such arrangements on West 46th Street in the theater district, long known as restaurant row.

Dining Outside

More then 184,000 of the city’s 274,000 food and beverage industry workers have lost their jobs due to the forced shutdown of the city economy brought by the Covid-19 pandemic, according to city Comptroller Scott Stringer.

Seven other New York regions have reached the second phase of reopening and can have outdoor dining beginning today. That permission applies to the Capital Region, Central New York, the Finger Lakes, the Mohawk Valley, the North Country, the Southern Tier and Western New York.

Outdoor tables must be spaced six feet apart, all staff must wear face coverings and customers must also wear face coverings when not seated, according to a statement from Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office.

During the City Council hearing, Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg criticized the New York City Council bill, saying it imposed a time-consuming and costly burden on the city to find appropriate sites over about 740 miles of commercial streets. A more streamlined process, she said, would be for restaurant owners to simply set up operations while observing city-established rules on where to set up tables and how far apart they should be spaced.

Trottenberg said Tampa has opened eight streets for outdoor dining and built platforms for curbside-lane dining. Other cities such as San Francisco and Boston are mostly providing the space and permitting, but little new infrastructure. In Washington D.C., restaurants can apply to use expanded sidewalk space, alleys, parking lanes, and travel lanes for seating, Trottenberg said.

Hoboken, a New Jersey town across the Hudson River that’s popular with millennials, adopted a plan this week to allow businesses to use more outdoor space when the state begins allowing such activity on June 15.

In 2018, there were more than 50,000 restaurants statewide in New York, with $51.5 billion of sales, according to the state Restaurant Association. The industry represents about 9% of employment in the state, and a much higher percentage in the city.

In New York City alone, there are about 19,400 full- and partial-service restaurants, cafes and food trucks, supporting more than 141,000 jobs, $4.2 billion in wages, and $12 billion in direct economic output, according to a 2018 city report on nightlife industries. The city is home to 72 Michelin-starred restaurants, more than any other U.S. city.

Lyron Foster is a Hawaii based African American Musician, Author, Actor, Blogger, Filmmaker, Philanthropist and Multinational Serial Tech Entrepreneur.

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