Restaurants financially wrecked by coronavirus may soon get some relief via a City Council bill that would temporarily allow dining at tables on sidewalks, in parking lots and other outdoor spots — even streets closed to traffic.
But some Brooklyn restaurateurs worry their eateries won’t qualify because they’ve been historically excluded from receiving such permits due to their residential zoning status.
“We are totally left out,” said Charlotta Janssen, owner of Chez Oskar, a French bistro in Bed-Stuy.
Janssen noted that her restaurant would have gotten a permit long ago if it had been eligible. The space just outside is zoned residential, not commercial, which has prevented her and others in the area from qualifying for permits for outdoor dining, she explained.
Now, she fears her business could collapse if help doesn’t arrive soon.
“It breaks my heart that we’re going to be left behind,” she told THE CITY, fighting back tears. “We’ve tried so hard — all of us… We need this so badly now.”
The sidewalk-table bill, introduced by Councilman Antonio Reynoso and supported by 15 other Council members, including Speaker Corey Johnson, would allow restaurants to apply for permits that expire on Oct. 31 — or sooner if social-distancing rules subside.
On Thursday, Johnson said that eateries that wouldn’t normally be allowed permits should be considered.
“We should try to work with restaurants that are not currently zoned for sidewalk cafes, where they couldn’t get this really quickly, but figure out other ways,” he said.
If passed, the bill would place the city Department of Consumer Affairs and Worker Protections in charge of doling out permits, and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene in charge of issuing health and safety guidelines.
The Department of Transportation, which governs streets and sidewalks, would determine which spaces could have outdoor dining.
Asked about the Council effort Thursday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said, “We’re really interested in the notion of outdoors being part of the solution for restaurants and bars.”
Still, he cautioned, the safe return of in-restaurant dining is not necessarily part of a four-phase city reopening plan: “It’s not yet time for restaurants and bars.”
During a virtual news conference Thursday, Reynoso said the City Council isn’t attempting to “unilaterally dictate” what de Blasio needs to do or when.
“What we’re doing is setting guidelines to start the conversation on an appropriate timeline,” said Reynoso, who represents parts of Ridgewood, Bushwick and Williamsburg. “What we don’t want is to get to phase three and have to wait two, three or four weeks thereafter for the plan without knowing how exactly they’re supposed to open.”
The article was published at Restaurants in Residential Areas Ask for Seat at the Table for Outdoor Dining Plans.