Outdoor Dining Saved NYC Restaurants, But Will It Destroy Quality of Life? - The Jewish Voice
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Sunday, September 24, 2023

Outdoor Dining Saved NYC Restaurants, But Will It Destroy Quality of Life?

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By: Jared Evan

When de Blasio and Cuomo abruptly shut down almost the entire city at the onset of the pandemic, the quickly assembled pandemic rules changed every minute, thus confusing business owners. When the mayor announced a quick plan to save restaurants with outdoor dining, the plans were just as shoddy and unclear. The outdoor dining sheds have become a major issue in NYC, even more so after the City reopened.

Hospitality groups point out the outdoor dining saved the jobs over 100,000 workers; however, the quality of life has decreased with the abundance of these sheds. In some areas like the Lower East Side, which has 2.3 bars per acre or 11.5 bars per bloc, NY Times pointed out, the outdoor sheds have created a lot of issues. Bars and restaurants have kept the outdoor sheds open, even after indoor dining restrictions were lifted by the city. This has become an issue especially for bars, where young drinkers have made the sidewalk a party zone. The NY Times interviewed a businesswoman who has owned a vintage clothing store on Ludlow Street for 20 years, and they spoke about what has happened since the outdoor dining huts have taken over the area.

Ginia Bellafante wrote in the Times: since the 19th century, shopping has been an animating pastime on the Lower East Side, but at some point, well into the 21st, a frat-boy style of barhopping superseded it as the reigning recreation. “It was really bad before Covid, but this has made things unlivable,” Ms. Koenigsberg told me, the “this” being a party that has poured into the streets with no apparent closing hour. Often, after the deluge, she will arrive at her store in the morning to find greasy napkins, cockroaches, stamped out cigarettes and evidence that last night’s celebrants elected to relieve themselves at the most convenient point possible.

As a result of the “invasion of the outdoor dining huts”, a lawsuit has been filed.

The garbage, the indifferent foot traffic, the music pumped into the streets all led Ms. Koenigsberg to join 21 other plaintiffs, who collectively have spent hundreds of years living downtown, in a suit filed against the city in New York State Supreme Court last month, demanding that a serious impact study be conducted before the outdoor dining program is made permanent and expanded, The NY Times’ Bellafante reported.

The restaurants and bar owners do have a strong reason for keeping the outdoor dining structures open; de Blasio’s incredibly strict and draconian vaccination mandates. While the media is downplaying the negative impact of vaccine requirements for restaurants, a look at the scene tells a different story. Restaurant row for example is surviving because of the outdoor dining huts. On any evening, walking around Times Square, you will see more people dining outdoors instead of in the restaurants. Many tourists, did not bring vaccine proof, did not realize NYC has absurdist vaccine segregation rules in NYC, and are stuck dining outdoors. Unless incoming Mayor Eric Adams changes the vaccine, requirements which are basically unique to NYC and Los Angeles, the outdoor dining huts, will be here to stay.

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