“Open Restaurants” Program Saves NY Jobs, But Problems Persist with Outdoor Dining

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On Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that 9,000 restaurants are taking part in the city’s Open Restaurants Program that allows them to offer outdoor dining. Photo Credit: AP

By: Jared Evan

On Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that 9,000 restaurants are taking part in the city’s Open Restaurants Program that allows them to offer outdoor dining.

The city estimates it has saved some 80,000 jobs with the program, ABC News reported.

However, problems still persist.

The NY Post reported:  One of the city’s priciest restaurants is taking up too much sidewalk space and exposing pedestrians to maskless outdoor diners on Central Park South, local residents charge.

The restaurant, Marea, a Michelin-starred Italian seafood restaurant, is raising the ire of local residents:

On the sidewalk, Marea’s 11 tables are set up under scaffolding “effectively cutting the sidewalk in half,” said a longtime Central Park South resident in a July 16 letter to the restaurant’s management, and reported and verified by the NY Post.

“It turns the thoroughfare into a cramped passage that has forced pedestrians to dodge waitstaff, move out from under the scaffolding onto a narrow strip by the curb or fully on to the street (into a bus stop),” the letter writer griped. “There is barely room for two pedestrians walking in opposite directions to pass each other and all this while far fewer than 6 feet separate anyone, let alone unmasked restaurant patrons.”

“I understand the need for restaurants to open and I totally support that, but this is just totally unacceptable,” said one pedestrian who did not want to be named , told the NY Post “It’s really outrageous that a lot of the elderly residents who live around here now have to cross the street in order to be 6 feet away from diners who are not wearing masks. If you are trying to walk by the restaurant, you are just inches from them.”

Mayor de Blasio announced on Monday that the program would return on June 1, 2021 to further help restaurants in New York City, and perhaps sooner should conditions allow. The Open Restaurant Program allows restaurants to promote open space, enhance social distancing during the pandemic, and earn money and keep people employed, ABC News reported.

ABC explained how the program works for businesses:

The city offers two options for temporary expanded outdoor dining:

– Open Restaurants – Individual food establishments may apply and self-certify to use the sidewalk or curb lane adjacent to their business.

– Open Streets: Restaurants – Community based organizations, BIDs or groups of three (3) or more restaurants on a single block may join together to apply online for weekend-only outdoor dining on streets closed to traffic. More information and locations can be found on the Open Streets: Restaurants program page.

TJV recently reported on other issues related to the outdoor dining program: The NY Post recently interviewed Fahiyan Ahmed, who operates the family owned LIC Grill in Long Island City.

Ahmed told the Post: “On the first day, I set up two tables outside for a test run. We got two customers that sat down, but then they came in said, ‘We’ve got to take the food to go,’ said Ahmed, 29.

“There was crack smoke blowing in their face, marijuana smoke, K2 smoke. There were people coming up to them asking for money. There were drug dealers yelling at their runners. There were gang signs being thrown left and right.”

Even worse, Ahmed said, “Two homeless guys sat down at one of our tables”

“I told them the seating was just for customers, but they didn’t want to move,” he said.

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