New York City’s outdoor dining initiative has resulted in a 12-fold increase in the dining scene, with more than 12,000 cafes, bars and restaurants setting up tables on sidewalks or in parking lanes since the program ended in June 2020 due to COVID-19 was started. 19 pandemic, according to an analysis by researchers from New York University.
The report, by Professor Mitchell L. Moss and Graduate Analyst Dominick T. Sonkowsky of the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, compares New York City’s older, pre-pandemic, outdoor Sidewalk Cafe dining program to its replacement, Open Restaurants. It shows how Open Restaurants has led to new al fresco dining opportunities outside of Manhattan, in communities that previously had no al fresco dining opportunities, and also in communities of color and in low-income neighborhoods.
Among the findings:
The four boroughs outside of Manhattan combined have 51% of open restaurant locations, compared to 30% under the city’s pre-pandemic sidewalk cafe program.
· Communities of color have doubled their share of outdoor dining in New York City, while low-income communities have nearly doubled their share.
· The 17 communities that did not have outdoor dining under the Sidewalk Café program now have outdoor dining under Open Restaurants.
“This remarkable growth in communities across the city would not have been possible under New York’s pre-pandemic sidewalk cafe program,” the report’s authors write. “Under this scheme, cafes, bars and restaurants seeking outdoor seating had to go through a lengthy vetting process and pay hefty revocable consent fees, assuming their zoning allowed it.”
The researchers note that Open Restaurants has generated significant opposition from neighbors concerned about noise, safety and hygiene. The debate underscores the central role that all children’s public spaces play in the lives of New Yorkers, “and the importance of the City of New York City government recognizing the competing values enhanced by al fresco dining.”
According to the report, the city administration should build on open restaurants. It calls for greater citywide access to outdoor dining and points to the impact on jobs and the restaurant industry — one of the unexpected benefits arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, the authors say. The report offers policy suggestions to make al fresco dining permanent.
To obtain a copy of the report or to interview the report’s authors, contact Robert Polner of the New York University Office of Public Affairs at 646.522.3046 or [email protected]