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NYC Restaurants Demand More Clarity Over Outdoor Dining Regulations

Plus, East Village icon Gem Spa is auctioning off several items including its historic sign

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Outdoor dining structures for restaurants in Harlem
NYC restaurant owners say there’s still a lot of confusion about outdoor dining structures
Kevin Queiroz for New Kingston Media

Outdoor dining guidelines still unclear for restaurant owners

New York State issued updated guidelines for outdoor dining earlier this month, but restaurant owners are continuing to call out the state to clarify the confusing rules, Gothamist reports.

The city’s guidelines previously stated that restaurants had to keep 50 percent of their outdoor space open to meet the requirements. Yet, the most recent update from the state outlines that restaurants were required to keep at least two sides of the outdoor structure open. Per the state’s definition, this means windows or cutouts on enclosed sides don’t actually count as adequate airflow measures for outdoor dining. Plastic bubbles, and sectioned-off enclosed spaces that have been appearing throughout the city, however, are allowed per state rules, as long as they accommodate just one dining party at a time.

With temperatures hovering at the below freezing mark and with no access to indoor dining, restaurant owners and industry groups have expressed frustration at the changing rules, as many businesses continue to struggle to stay afloat with no federal aid in sight. While the state sets the outdoor dining guidelines, the city is in charge of enforcing them. The Mayor’s office didn’t immediately clarify if fines have already been handed out, but a spokesperson tells Gothamist that the city will enforce state law.

In other news

— The shuttered East Village icon Gem Spa is auctioning off several of its historic items, including the signature storefront sign and two gates with artwork by the renowned local artist Paul Kostabi . The auction runs through tomorrow.

— Employees at Chinatown’s dim sum favorite Jing Fong raised more than $5,000 to help the owners expand the restaurant’s outdoor dining structure.

— Rockefeller Center’s pop-up game is getting stronger. In addition to Frenchette and City Winery, Portuguese spot Joey Bats Cafe is also adding an outpost to the winter setup.

— Filmmaker Nicolas Heller, perhaps best known as Instagram’s New York Nico, is calling on celebrities and public figures to highlight their favorite small businesses, including restaurants, to help them generate more business and stay afloat during the pandemic.

— Neighborhood staple Tribeca’s Kitchen has finally reopened after several devastating months, which included the death of its owner Andreas Koutsoudakis from complications related to COVID-19. The reopening — which is limited to takeout and delivery for now — includes a new team in the kitchen led by Betony alums Jack Logue and Mina Pizarro, according to a restaurant spokesperson.

— Chef Hiroki Odo is opening another venture from his Michelin-starred kaiseki counter in the Flatiron District. Muse will emphasize foods from Japan’s Kyushu region, where Odo is from.

— Korean-style poultry chain Mad for Chicken is continuing its rapid NYC expansion with a fifth location. This latest outpost is located in Forest Hills, at 71-37 Austin St., and is set to open next month.

— Word:

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