NYC Restaurant Reopenings: Parking Lots and Sidewalk Takeovers


Restaurants in New York City reopened on Monday, June 22, as part of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Phase 2 Plan. Al fresco (outdoor) dining returned for 27,000 permitted restaurants throughout New York City and Long Island. “Phase Two of reopening is officially underway, New York City!” celebrated Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday morning.

Restaurant industry analyst Kate Krader shared her thoughts on the opening day on national radio. “I think a lot of the merchants were delighted that they got to be back in business and serving people,” said Krader. “They’ve been setting up tables six feet apart and you know, all of a sudden, activating their parking lots and turning them into dining rooms.”

This is true. NYC restaurants can only serve outdoors, and therefore are taking over unconventional areas outdoors. This is approved by the municipality. As part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s “Open Streets” plan, over 60 miles of pavement have been shut down to car traffic across all NYC boroughs. Moreover, official schematics for restaurateurs’ sidewalk takeover allowances for areas outside of those 60 miles are maintained at nyc.gov/openrestaurants.

Krader explained the previously inconceivable new reality for high-end restaurants in the post-coronavirus world. “Peter Luger in Brooklyn, that has never, ever served steak outside their doors, as of Thursday is going to have tables outside the restaurant. And it’s turning the parking lot into a sort of picnic area,” explained Krader. Peter Luger is Michelin starred and has been named the best steakhouse in New York City by Zagat for 30 consecutive years.

“There are 27,000 restaurants in New York City,” continued Krader. “There is no going back. Everybody has to move forward and the most successful people realize that, and see new ways forward, and new opportunities.”

Bloomberg reporters are operating a live tracker here of all NYC reopenings, including booth restaurants as well as office spaces, entertainment venues, playgrounds, hair salons, and other service businesses.

Krader pointed out the elephant in the room for restaurants relying on parking lots and sidewalks. “Outdoor seating is dependent on weather. So if you have a rainy Saturday and you thought you had sold it out, and then you can’t get everybody in, that’s a disaster.” Indeed, many restaurants operate at a loss for most of the week, with a few rush hours making up all the profit.

Krader mentioned one of the popular income boosters for restaurateurs. “A lot of restaurants have been enterprising, turning themselves into grocery stores, and selling cocktails. That’s done a surprisingly good job of helping create income.” Indeed, innovative restaurants have been selling groceries and meal kits for supplemental income since early April.

Krader ended her interview with a forecast for how many NYC restaurants could ultimately close in the fallout from COVID-19 by next week. “The margins are so slim anyway. It’s a very challenging future,” she began. She first cited the National Restaurant Association’s survey that forecasts approximately 25% of restaurants will permanently close, nationwide. “I think in New York, that number might be higher. I think that’s a conservative estimate… I think that number is going to be higher. I would not be surprised if it’s like at least 40%. It’s a very scary number. Yeah. It’s terrifying.” 

NYC plans to allow indoor dining and personal care services in NYC starting July 6 as part of Phase 3 reopening. Worldwide, 2.2 million restaurants are on the brink of collapse as a result of COVID-19. COVID-19 has killed 483,461 people to date.

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