Most NYC restaurants’ futures hinge on permanent outdoor dining: Survey

Mayor Eric Adams dines with City Council Members and the NYC Hospitality Alliance at Mario’s on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx to show his support for outdoor dining on Feb. 6.
Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office

As the city’s financially-devastated restaurants and bars struggle to recoup two years of losses caused by the pandemic, forced shutdowns, occupancy restrictions, office towers empty of workers, next to no tourism and inadequate government relief, a survey conducted by the NYC Hospitality Alliance found that nine in 10 restaurants say outdoor dining was vital to their survival and will be key for their long-term success.

According to owners and operators of 726 restaurants representing all five boroughs, 91 percent said the City Council enacting permanent outdoor dining program is “very important” to the future of their business; with 95 percent of respondents saying that outdoor dining was “very important” to the survival of their business during the past two years.

As outdoor dining is widely recognized for saving an estimated 100,000 industry jobs, with the majority of these jobs held by immigrant and minority New Yorkers, eight in 10 restaurant owners are concerned they’ll have to lay off workers should the program not be made permanent, while 92 percent of respondents believe that a permanent program would allow their business to hire more restaurant staff in the future.

The Alliance’s survey also reaffirms the program’s broad support, finding that 89 percent of restaurants say outdoor dining is very popular among customers.

Mayor Eric Adams and the new City Council inherited the outdoor dining program still in its temporary emergency status.

According to the Alliance, the Mayor expressed his support for developing a permanent program, alongside City Council Members during a weekend lunch at Mario’s Restaurant on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx.

“Outdoor dining was an absolute lifeline for restaurants and bars that were financially devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Andrew Rigie, executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance. “Since its inception, the Open Restaurants Program has saved 100,000 industry jobs and thousands of small businesses from financial collapse, and an overwhelming majority of hospitality customers love it.

“Based on the success and popularity of this emergency program, the City Council must now develop and enact a standardized and sustainable permanent outdoor dining program that works for restaurants and the communities they serve, so New York City can enjoy dining alfresco for many years to come,” Rigie added.

“This administration is focused on an equitable recovery for New York City, and helping our local restaurants stay open for our communities, our neighborhoods, and our economy is critical to that mission,” said Deputy Mayor for Economic and Workforce Development Maria Torres-Springer. “The Open Restaurants program has been an invaluable tool for local restaurants through the pandemic, and we are committed to working with the City Council to make the program permanent in a way that works for everyone.”

Since June 2020, NYC Hospitality Alliance said more than 11,000 restaurants in New York City have been certified for outdoor dining.

The program remains popular with customers, with nearly 70 percent of New York City residents supporting a permanent outdoor dining in some form, according to a survey released by NYC Department of Transportation, with some 84 percent of Manhattan residents supporting it.

Following nearly unanimous approval from The City Planning Commission, a public hearing on the proposal was held by the Committee on Consumer and Worker Protection, jointly with the Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises, on Tuesday.

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