The City Council voted Thursday to extend outdoor dining in its current form until September 2021, throwing another potential lifeline to the restaurant industry, which has been crushed by the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.
With indoor dining still at 25 percent capacity and the cold weather coming, the City Council also voted to allow for propane heaters to be used by restaurants.
Prior to this legislation, only piped natural gas heaters (not propane) were allowed for heating outdoor restaurant spaces.
As NY1 has reported, complying with those outdoor heating standards has proved to be not only prohibitively expensive for struggling restaurants owners, but also confusing.
Thursday's legislation solidifies guidance released by the city Wednesday night, which states that restaurants in the city's Open Restaurants program have three options for heating outdoor dining: electric heaters, natural gas heaters and portable heaters fueled by propane -- all allowed on sidewalks.
Only electric heaters will be allowed for restaurants with seating on streets.
Leaders from the hospitality community—such as Andrew Rigie, executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance—were quick to recognize the City Council for their decision to pass the legislation.
“We commend the City Council for passing legislation extending the critically important, temporary outdoor dining program for one year and allowing the use of heat lamps to keep customers warm during the colder months,” Riggie said in a statement. “Outdoor dining has been monumental to reviving thousands of struggling restaurants able to avail themselves of the program, protecting jobs, and returning a sense of vibrancy to our neighborhoods.”
Riggie, however, tempered his excitement by noting the need to further expand indoor dining seating to 50 percent sooner rather than later.
“Although outdoor dining has been overwhelmingly successful, the city’s restaurant industry is still on life support and its survival depends on safely expanding indoor dining occupancy to 50% soon,” Riggie added in the statement.
Health officials have continued to urge caution when it comes to indoor dining, arguing it could increase the spread of the coronavirus.
It’s a sentiment echoed by weary restaurant-goers across the city.