Mayor Bill de Blasio confirmed Thursday that New York City would move into the second phase of reopening on Monday, June 22, and finally unveiled several more details on what outdoor dining will look like through a new “Open Restaurants” plan for the city.
The outdoor seating will come in many forms in the city. In addition to sidewalk seating — which will run through October — the city is also piloting a curb lane seating program starting on Monday that will run through Labor Day this year. Starting in July, restaurants may be able to start setting up seating on streets that have already been closed off to vehicular traffic this summer. In some of the business improvement districts in the city, restaurants can reach out to the Department of Transportation to inquire about setting up seating in pedestrian plazas.
The city estimates that the “Open Restaurants” plan will benefit at least 5,000 restaurants across the city and help save 45,000 jobs. “We have to save this industry,” de Blasio said in a press conference announcing the city’s outdoor dining plan. “We’re going to make sure that we save restaurants.”
For restaurants that already have permits for outdoor seating, it will mostly be business as usual starting on Monday. For others, de Blasio said Thursday that there would be an expedited online application process to approve restaurants’ outdoor seating plans. But with the official kickoff just days away, it’s not clear how quickly the city will be able to process these applications or how many applicants the online system is equipped to handle at once — although the mayor characterized it as a quick, self-certification process and said businesses will receive approval almost immediately.
“Our goal was to be quick and nimble and help as many restaurants as we could,” Department of Transportation commissioner Polly Trottenberg said of the expedited application process.
In conjunction with the announcement Thursday, the city also dropped guidelines on safe practices for outdoor seating, all of which echoed the state guidelines that came out last week, including requiring customers to wear face coverings unless seated, and having tables spaced six feet apart. The city has made face coverings available for free for small businesses, and there is also an online reopening supply marketplace launching today with a range of items for sale, including gloves, disinfectant, face shields, physical barriers, and more.
Still, de Blasio warned that the none of the outdoor dining measures go into effect until Monday, when the city starts phase two of reopening. Until then, restaurants and bars can’t legally put out outdoor tables and chairs — although many have sidestepped those rules and have already been setting out patio furniture for weeks. “If we see problems, we’re going to address them this weekend,” de Blasio said.