Promote restaurateurs nationwide to make street meals permanent

The pandemic has pushed consumers from cafeterias to sidewalks, parking lots and open streets. Today, restaurateurs demand that outdoor dining structures, tents and sheds be maintained forever.

In July, the San Francisco Supervisory Board voted to keep the Dining Parklet permanent. Atlanta and Philadelphia are among the cities considering similar measures. New York City has laid out technical details on more sustainable outdoor dining rules after Mayor Bill de Blasio made the open restaurant program permanent a year ago.

Big cities don’t just watch change. The City of Fairfax, Calif., Conducted a survey of residents, visitors and businesses in August to determine whether restaurants should be able to operate their food parks on a permanent basis. Of the 987 respondents, 91% said they were in favor of this measure.

David Ruiz opened the Stillwater restaurant in Fairfax with his wife in June 2020. There was a back patio instead, but when Fairfax started approving the Parklet structure, Stillwater built his, which takes up about a third of the total. of the restaurant capacity.

“Of course that is a game changer,” he said. “We’re probably sitting somewhere between 30 and 100 people every day. “

Veselka, a staple in the Ukrainian village of Manhattan, has built an outdoor structure that adds approximately 50 seats to its capacity.

“It really helped me make money,” said co-owner Jason Virtualard. “Without these 11 tables, 50 places in total, it definitely wins its maintenance. “

The additional sales of those tables helped ease the pressure on Veselka to return to 24-hour service before the pandemic, even as the city eased the curfew at restaurants. Staff problems and noisy crowds at midnight would have made it difficult to resume these hours.

Still, making alfresco dining permanent is popular in restaurants, but there are some naysayers. Some restaurants have complained about noisy outside customers and the loss of parking space.

Pietro Gianni, co-owner of Atlanta’s Storico Fresco and Forza Storico restaurants, said, “I would like to have four parklets in front of the building rather than the walls of four Yukons and SUVs so people can sit and watch the restaurant. ”

In New York City, de Blasio defended the loss of about 8,550 parking lots by acknowledging the program’s achievements in saving 100,000 restaurant jobs. In 2019, there were around 3 million places on the streets of the city.

“It’s a small problem, but it’s still a problem that needs to be addressed,” said Andrew Riggie, general secretary of the New York City Hospitality Alliance, which is lobbying on behalf of the restaurant. “As many people say, parking is for one car and is usually temporary. On the other hand, how many seats can be placed in a parking lot and how many jobs have been created. “

Opponents also complain about the safety of the dining room structure. A sanitary truck driving in Manhattan on Wednesday accidentally picked up a street side food court with people in it and dragged it down the street.

Hygiene is another issue.

“You always see mice coming out of the hut,” Cuup NYC member Stuart Waldman told CNBC’s Kate Rogers in August. The Cue Up NYC, or Coalition United for Equitable Urban Policy, is an alliance of neighborhood organizations that oppose New York’s outdoor dining programs.

As the city tries to resolve these issues, restaurants may find that patrons are less enthusiastic about staying outside year round. Instead of eating indoors last winter, many endured the cold and operators invested in propane heaters and other features to warm their customers. For example, Veselka surrounded some exterior structures.

This year, many restaurateurs plan to maintain street side dining facilities during the winter, although they may change their plans to meet demand. The Covid-19 vaccine has again made many consumers feel comfortable eating indoors, but new variations and the proliferation of other cases may change their minds again.

“I don’t think some people will ever come back to the cafeteria,” Gianni said.

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