Alfresco dining is becoming a staple on the streets of New York, the city council said Thursday.
City lawmakers approved a bill (Intro. 2127-A) continuing the program launched in June to boost business in restaurants in the five counties amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The initiative will be extended until September next year, when it will be replaced by a permanent menu for the outside area.
Legislation also paves the way for restaurants to use portable heaters in outdoor dining areas so restaurants can continue to serve guests during the fall and winter in colder weather.
Brooklyn / Queens City Councilor Antonio Reynoso presented the legislation back in September. 10 other legislators co-sponsored the bill. He called his passage “a great benefit for the catering industry and its workers, guests and the morale of the residents”.
“New York’s outdoor dining program has been a remarkable success,” said Reynoso. “Now, by making al fresco dining permanent and allowing the use of outside heat lamps, my bill will allow the program to continue into the colder months.”
The bill is now waiting for the signature of Mayor Bill de Blasio.
The Queens Chamber of Commerce welcomed the passage of the bill on Thursday.
“Restaurants are the backbone of New York’s economy and the economies of the five boroughs, but the past few months have been devastating for the industry,” said Thomas Grech, CEO of the Queens Chamber of Commerce. “Not only has the al fresco dining been a hit with diners, it has also enabled our valued neighborhood businesses to keep New Yorkers busy and generate much-needed income. We are pleased that the program is permanent. We are also pleased that the council is taking proactive steps to ensure the program can continue as the colder months approach by allowing the use of electric and propane heaters. “
The arrival of COVID-19 in New York in March forced restaurants to close their doors to customers due to capacity constraints. Although many restaurants were closed, others went into the spring and served customers by delivery or take-out.
In the spring, the city council and de Blasio approved a program to allow restaurants to set up roadside seating outside of their facilities on the street. This enabled the restaurants to serve their diners again once New York City entered Phase 2 of its reopening on June 22nd.
While alfresco dining has proven hugely popular across the city to bring diners back to their favorite restaurants, the entire industry continues to struggle amid the pandemic. The New York City Hospitality Alliance previously reported that far too many restaurateurs fall far short of their rent and can only make partial payments to their landlords.
Andrew Rigie, the executive director of the Alliance, applauded the city council for the passage of the permanent al fresco dining law, but repeatedly called for federal relief for New York’s struggling dining sector.
“Eating al fresco has been of great importance in revitalizing thousands of restaurants that are able to take advantage of the program, protect jobs and bring a sense of life to our neighborhoods,” Rigie said. Although al fresco dining has been overwhelmingly successful, the city’s restaurant industry is still life sustaining and its survival depends on indoor restaurant occupancy safely increasing to 50% soon and the federal government passing the RESTAURANTS bill immediately. “
The RESTAURANTS Act, introduced in the House of Representatives earlier this month, would provide $ 120 billion in grants to restaurants across America.
This story originally appeared on amny.com.