NYC is considering a new outdoor dining concept: the roadway cafe

The pandemic has brought a wave of change to urban life as we know it. Among them: the arrival of a variety of creative outdoor catering structures.

Now, as the number of cases seems to (hopefully, finally!) be coming down, city officials are trying to find ways to move forward while taking into account the needs of diners who want to be safe and restaurants struggling to attract customers, added to the desires of cyclists lamenting the lack of bike lanes and those of motorists complaining that sheds and shacks have taken over parking spaces.

ABC7 reports that earlier this week the New York City Council committee began debating a new bill that could potentially turn the various sheds into permanent facilities. The cabins were created as part of the Open Restaurants program. Established in June 2020, when indoor restaurants closed, the guidelines were intended to help restaurants in danger.

Although no official decision has yet been made, rumor has it that the various structures will be a thing of the past.

“We don’t envision hangars in the permanent program,” said Julie Schipper, director of Open Restaurants at the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT). “We don’t foresee that. What would be on the roadway like barriers like tents or barriers, but not those full houses that you see on the street. One of the main goals of this program is to really have [something] which can last for years and years. We had to eat outside in all weathers [during COVID] but this will no longer be the case in the future. This program is really intended for a post-COVID scenario, where you can dine out whenever it feels nice and comfortable, but you won’t need to be in a house across the street.”

DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodrigues went on to explain that officials would likely create licenses for sidewalk and roadside cafes that would require them “to comply with rules before they are built, subjecting them to inspection soon after.” .

The roadside cafes would be reminiscent of the outdoor structures that accompanied the Open Restaurants program, but on a smaller scale. Such destinations would occupy part of a parking lane or a curb lane in front of a restaurant. Sidewalk cafes, on the other hand, would essentially resemble the outdoor dining destinations that dotted the city’s culinary scene before the pandemic: think of the open-air tables at Café Mogador in St. Mark’s Square, for example.

Simply put, those home-style “outdoor restaurants” that have taken over all of our streets will be gone. They would be replaced by a multitude of tables reminiscent of life before COVID – an idea that, to be honest, fills us with joy.

We’re sure other potential options will be explored before an official decision is made, but it looks like the future of our city’s dining scene is in flux and we can’t wait to see what it will look like.

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