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More on NYC’s Changing Dining Scene


Last week, Governor Cuomo placed a second ban on indoor dining which came into effect today. The ban, many have been quick to point out, is a devastating blow to an already struggling industry. As the restaurant industry continues to adapt to the deeply unfortunate circumstances of this year, many have closed their doors permanently. Nearly 90% of restaurants did not pay full rent and nearly 33% paid nothing at all. [2] Approximately 150,000 New Yorkers lost their jobs in the restaurant industry. Their return and the industry’s revival will be pivotal to New York City’s recovery not just financially but culturally, as well. It is here that some have found what appears to be a silver lining in this drought of a year.  

For a start, outdoor dining is no longer just an emergency measure. In an announcement that the Outdoor Dining Program would not end at its October deadline, but would instead become a permanent fixture, de Blasio stated, “It’s time for a new tradition.” [1] Much seems to indicate that he is right. Experts expect that the restaurant scene will spill out of interiors, as customers appear to enjoy this new way of dining. COVID-19 notwithstanding, many report that their neighborhoods have felt livelier since the restaurants opened up curbside. 

Restaurants have reported their appreciation of this cultural shift as well. Some have even sought to embrace their new reality. Live music, ambitious decor, and lively outdoor seating arrangements have helped some restaurants withstand this year’s complications. Now more than ever, people seem to be drawn to what they can see. For this reason, it is also expected that the process of preparing food will likewise become more visible and lively, blurring the lines between street and restaurant food. [1] 

Currently, the local government supports this “new tradition.” De Blasio had this to say about the long-term promises of the program: “I think this will really help us… We want restaurants to do well.” [2] As of now, the city gives store and restaurant owners access to the street in front of their storefront free of charge. However, as things return to normal, this will likely cease to be the case, or will, at least, come with complications. Rents will almost certainly increase as landlords incorporate sidewalk space, revamped storefronts, and extra seating into rent evaluations. Property values will likely spike as premises show that they can be used in more productive ways. [2]

On the other hand, this newfound productivity will be available to many more storefronts. Previously, it was quite difficult to acquire permits for outdoor dining. Even when permitted, outdoor arrangements were often small, conservative, and quiet. During the pandemic, however, approval was virtually guaranteed to applicants through the Outdoor Dining Program. We can expect that this will make the general application process for outdoor seating more accessible going forward, as the program was warmly received by local government offices, many of which are coordinating to perfect these situations. Polly Trottenberg, the city transportation commissioner, praised the program, stating that open dining “has developed into one of the few bright spots in the pandemic … a creative vision of public space.” [2] She and others in the local government have committed themselves to ensuring that this vision is not lost in our return to normal. Clearly, the street dining scene is here to stay.    


[1] – Wells, Pete, “9 Ways Outdoor Dining Will Change New York,” The New York Times, 2 Nov. 2020,, accessed 14 Dec. 2020.

[2] – Hu, Winne & Rosa, Amanda, “Outdoor Dining in N.Y.C. Will Become Permanent, Even in Winter,” The New York Times, 25 Sep. 2020,, accessed 14 Dec. 2020.

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