New York City just made its “Open Restaurants” program permanent. Originally set to expire at the end of the October, the al fresco dining program — which allows restaurants to use sidewalks and curb lanes adjacent to their business — is now being thought of as something that will permanently reshape public space in the city.
Along with this announcement, the City also provided clarity on how heating and enclosures may be used throughout the winter months. Electrical heaters can be used anywhere. But propane heaters can only be used on sidewalks and you’ll need to get a permit from the fire department. Prior to this announcement, there was an outright ban on propane heaters.
Tents and other enclosures are now permitted, but at least 50% of the side walls needs to remain open for ventilation. Otherwise it gets classified as indoor dining and those rules would then apply. However, fully enclosed structures, such as cool looking Instagrammable domes, are allowed for individual parties provided there’s “adequate ventilation.” Whatever that means.
This is yet another example of how COVID-19 is forcing us to reconsider the way we think about and use public space within our cities — perhaps forever. And in this particular case, it’ll be interesting to see to what extent cities embrace dining outside in the winter. Some of us already do it when we, for example, après ski. Could the same thing work in our cities?