New York City’s Outdoor Dining Doom

Preserving the country’s greatest restaurant scene in the midst of a pandemic feels like an afterthought.

by Liz Wolfe

New York City restaurants have been hit hard during the last year by COVID-19 and bad government policy. Although outdoor dining has been permitted since June, the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT) keeps changing the rules, forcing already burdened restaurants to spend heaps of money to stay compliant.

New regulations that went into effect on December 15 purport to help restaurants prepare for winter road conditions that could jeopardize customers’ safety if cars skid into dining areas, which are often set up in blocked-off parking spots and on sidewalks. Restaurants now must fill their roadway barriers with sand or soil. For many, this rule requires adding interior walls and bottoms to the structures, or ripping out the plants that restaurateurs added earlier in the year. Most restaurants also will be forced to add “a plastic water-filled barrier in front of the roadway barrier facing oncoming traffic,” per the DOT, which says a street’s crash rates and traffic volumes will determine which restaurants are exempt. Reflective tape must be added too. The tape and plastic barriers will be provided by the city.

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