Mayor de Blasio announced the extension of outdoor dining indefinitely in a Friday interview with Brian Lehrer, saying the city would make the Open Restaurants program “permanent and year-round.” The city’s outdoor dining was previously set to expire on October 31st.
This announcement comes just days before some restaurants prepare to open for indoor dining at a reduced 25% capacity, which starts on Wednesday, September 30th. Places like Le Bernardin, North Miznon, and Atoboy have already committed to reopening their indoor dining areas on the 30th, while others remain uncertain.
There’s no question that the extension of outdoor dining is a win for restaurants. It will allow them to seat more customers, as well as relieve some of the pressure to rely on indoor dining as their only option outside of delivery and takeout. Meanwhile, the outdoor dining extension gives diners the option to avoid sitting indoors if that’s their preference - assuming they prepare with the proper puffy jackets and possibly adorable mittens.
Still, some of the details surrounding seating warm-blooded humans outside when it’s below 60 degrees need to be ironed out. In a recent phone call, Moshe Schulman, one of the owners of Ruffian and Kindred, voiced his concerns about the lack of government guidance.
“What are they going to tell us in terms of how to winterize our outdoor seating? What kind of heaters can we use? Are we allowed to put tent enclosures up? How can we isolate or keep the outside seating going whether there’s 25% indoor or not?”
In Friday’s interview with Bryan Lehrer, the mayor mentioned that restaurants can choose to enclose their outdoor dining areas, as long as they then adhere to the reduced capacity restrictions of indoor dining. He also said he’s going to work with the City Council on the specifics of how restaurants can winterize spaces.