New York City's Outdoor Dining Doom

Preserving the country's greatest restaurant scene in the midst of a pandemic feels like an afterthought.


New York City restaurants have been hit hard during the last year by COVID-19 and bad government policy. Although outdoor dining has been permitted since June, the city's Department of Transportation (DOT) keeps changing the rules, forcing already burdened restaurants to spend heaps of money to stay compliant.

New regulations that went into effect on December 15 purport to help restaurants prepare for winter road conditions that could jeopardize customers' safety if cars skid into dining areas, which are often set up in blocked-off parking spots and on sidewalks. Restaurants now must fill their roadway barriers with sand or soil. For many, this rule requires adding interior walls and bottoms to the structures, or ripping out the plants that restaurateurs added earlier in the year. Most restaurants also will be forced to add "a plastic water-filled barrier in front of the roadway barrier facing oncoming traffic," per the DOT, which says a street's crash rates and traffic volumes will determine which restaurants are exempt. Reflective tape must be added too. The tape and plastic barriers will be provided by the city.

It's nice to make these "streeteries" sturdier, but the city says they must also be easy to move when inclement weather strikes. If there's a snow alert, diners will not be allowed to sit in outdoor areas, not even fully covered ones. If 12 or more inches of snow are in the forecast, restaurateurs must remove the roadway barriers they made hundreds of pounds heavier at the city's behest.

That's not all. Propane-fueled patio heaters, which use 20-pound propane tanks, are temporarily allowed on sidewalks but not blocked-off roadways. Storing a propane tank requires a permit from the fire department, but the propane tank must be stored in an above-ground enclosure that's at least 10 feet away from buildings or adjoining lots, which is a tough feat in most of the city.

All of these requirements are in addition to a mandatory 10 p.m. closing time and regulations dictating that bars serve food with all booze purchases, leading to lots of $1 popcorn offerings to satisfy the requirement should the authorities come knocking. It's now standard practice for bartenders to let drinkers know which of their food options is the cheapest.

Of course it's fair for city officials to be concerned with safety, but had they offered relevant guidance earlier, restaurants might have had the opportunity to build appropriate barriers the first time around instead of being forced to make expensive modifications later.

The need for roadway barricades that are both sturdy enough to withstand cars and light enough to move when it snows is emblematic of the jam in which restaurants find themselves. Preserving the country's greatest restaurant scene in the midst of a pandemic feels like an afterthought.

NEXT: Brickbat: You Can't Get There from Here

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  1. I have little to no sympathy for them. They voted for the progressive trash to run new york, and that’s what they got. The only sad thing would be if these loosers moved somewhere else and kept voting for the same subhuman progressive cancers.

    1. Why do you pose this as a hypothetical?

      We here in South Florida have been living with the scourge of New Yorkers for many decades. They not only bring their idiotic politics, but their execrable culture of personal interaction and business ethics.

      Apparently, massive numbers have also stopped off in places like Atlanta and Charlotte. I was surprised to hear my father complaining about the New Yorkers in his assisted living facility – “they don’t think any of the rules apply to them. They don’t wear masks, they get right up in your face, and they keep letting family come in through their outside apartment entrances without going through the screening at the front entrance. So they have brought Covid in on two separate occasions. When that happens, the whole facility has to go on lockdown for a couple of weeks. Nobody can leave their apartment.


      This is what they do. They flee the culture they came from, but then they bring it with them.

      A few notables like Ben Shapiro flee these locations for their politics and proudly eschew their former home’s screwed up values. But most don’t. Even as they complain about the consequences, they stick to the tribal affiliations that created the problem in the first place, oblivious to their own role in things.

      1. I ment that as the people who are still there

  2. The problem here is that the government regulations are a chaotic mess of overlapping jurisdictions mandating conflicting rules. What NYC needs is a restaurant czar to issue one set of regulations that over-ride all these lesser regulations so that everybody is on the same page. With enough regulation, and especially the right kind of regulation, there’s no problem that government can’t fix. It’s not that central planning is the problem, it’s that we don’t yet have enough central planning. We need some lawyer who knows nothing at all about running a restaurant to tell us what to do.

    1. Jerry, you don’t go far enough. Why does government even permit restaurants in the first place? They are an un-needed luxury for rich folks who can’t be bothered to learn to cook. Close them all down and have the womanfolk make sammiches in their kitchens as the Good Lord intended.

      1. no, that’s oppressive. the progressives will have union members delivering your approved vegan food products weekly, no cooking required (that would imperil the Earth).

        1. what chefs who remain will find useful employment at a living wage, preparing meals for the government planners running everything.

  3. Too many arrogant self-important always-right “planner” politicians.
    Not enough effort towards innovation, creating, and producing.

    1. Or just staying out of things unless someone needs a streetlight somewhere.

  4. The people have no effective recourse but to bow the whims of regulators or move the hell out. It seems like up until last year it had to have been slow death by a thousand bureaucratic cuts, when it suddenly became blind hatchet swings. Why do people stay.

  5. Am I the only person who realizes those “outdoor” dining facilities are actually indoors?
    I mean, really. Walls, heaters (with no engineered ventilation flow) ceilings, some with doors?

    1. Going from the picture it’s pod dining which is potentially worse than meeting up at a friends house for a meal which is where most of cases seem to originate.

      1. Going from the picture, the main controlling ‘rule’ about space is the street sign. That’s what is defining the space allocated to cars v the space allocated to humans eating. That space is not being ‘shared’ (and can’t be). Nor is a pricing system being used to determine the most valuable use of that space – at that moment.

        so the result is that a visibly large part of that space – owned by the public – is being handed over for cars – free of charge – even when there are no cars there.

        1. I know you like to think of yourself as some sort of self-taught urban planning expert, but . . . WHAT?

          The two posters above you are talking about the close proximity of people dining inside these little bubble, and how the bubbles themselves are a rather closed and not very well ventilated space.

          You are apparently talking about on-street parking being taken over for dining space, (or vice versa? it’s hard to tell) which does happen in some places, but not in this photo, as the bubble pod things are clearly on the sidewalk, and therefore taking up pedestrian space.

          1. as the bubble pod things are clearly on the sidewalk

            Very transparently on the sidewalk. Restricted to the sidewalk. Squashed onto the sidewalk you might say. So squashed onto the sidewalk that there is no possible space between tables – and bubble pod things become ‘necessary’.

            There is no overflow onto the street to provide space for people who are actually there at that moment and place. There are no cars on the street either. Merely plenty of space set aside for the car – if at some point in the future a car comes along and demands space – all free of charge.

            THAT is what the street sign is ordering.

            1. I don’t agree with you, but even if I did, what on earth does any of that have to do with what the two posters above your initial comment are talking about?

              1. It’s speaks to jeffies inability to purchase a car, thus his envy.

              2. Those two comments and mine are observations about that photograph. You seem very upset that some observations are acceptable while others aren’t. weird.

  6. New York? Both the city and the state are run by pro-science Democrats so I’m sure whatever they’re doing is correct. In fact Governor Andrew Cuomo literally wrote the book on effective pandemic response.


    1. LOL. Yeah because “science says” bayonet mounts, muzzle devices, grenade launchers, and extremely large, heavy, cumbersome, and inconcealable handguns are so frequently used in crime that they need to be banned. Need anyone point out that grenade launchers are classed and registered under NFA as destructive devices requiring special federal licensing.

      Hey, if “science says” the aluminum frame Desert Eagle and Glock 27 are fine but the steel frame Desert Eagle is evil, who are we to question it? It’s “science” after all.

      1. I’m still trying to figure out how they shoehorn a ban on .50 cal machine guns into the second amendment’s prohibition on infringing on the right of the people to keep and bear arms.

        It might not be good public policy, but the language is clear. “Shall not be infringed” doesn’t seem to me to include exceptions for short barrel shotguns, automatic guns, anti-aircraft guns, howitzers, phased plasma rifles in the 40 watt range…..

        Arms is arms. And shall not be infringed is crystal clear.

        1. We should really amend the Second Amendment to exclude nuclear bombs and doomsday bioweapons.

          1. ananimasu
            February.16.2021 at 1:23 am
            “We should really amend the Second Amendment to exclude nuclear bombs…”
            ^dumbest straw man award^

    2. Cuomo wrote the book on ineffective management of pandemic response.

      * He re-introduced infected seniors into nursing homes killing 10’s of thousands of them…and then lied about he number of deaths.

      * School closings that are contrary to all the known science on the issue.

      * Killed his economy to end up being worse than FL (as one example) in terms of C19 outcomes with an older population while maintaining better economic conditions.

    1. Who are you with the magic power to post multiple links?

      Very interesting stuff (as usual from Ridley), further reinforcing my belief that the lockdown was the single most destructive piece of public policy in at least 80 years.

      It also reinforces the CW from the outset: rigorous infection control in institutional settings (especially nursing facilities) while letting the infection run its course in the general population was probably the wisest course of action – much of the country failed on both counts.

      1. Wait, how did he do that? The squirrels have me waiting for moderation from last August….

    2. Virology 101.

  7. How much longer can Americans accept this needless suffering? On the one hand, I’m depressed that my fellow Americans care so little for freedom; on the other, I’m impressed that they’re willing to suffer so much for so little. At this point, does anyone even bother to argue that masks/lockdowns work? It’s like we don’t even care, we just want to make sacrifices regardless.

    1. Suffering shows virtue. Doncha know.

    2. Screw that. Went to Mexico last week.

    3. It’s because so many have made the leap from knowledge and logic to fear and religion because they bought into all the gaslighting put forth by government and media. Of course in many areas you also have mask/lockdown police so I assume many, such as myself, are just avoiding governmental compliance assistance.

      Personally given the “don’t need a mask”, “do wear a mask”, “N95 mask not needed, any face covering will do”, “wear two masks”, etc. I don’t know why anyone listens any more. We’ll all get the disease and/or the vaccine and just like every other day we’ll either live to see tomorrow or not.

    4. Its like that fable with the deluded emperor, only this time everybody is naked.

      1. That sounds way too fun!

  8. The need for roadway barricades that are both sturdy enough to withstand cars and light enough to move when it snows is emblematic of the jam in which restaurants find themselves. Preserving the country’s greatest restaurant scene in the midst of a pandemic feels like an afterthought.

    Of course it’s an afterthought. The only important thing for any city is to preserve free parking and movement for the car. Cities only exist for the purpose of someone elsewhere having an option to drive on every street at all times even if the option is not being utilized.

    I’m 100% certain that some movement among city residents to repurpose streets during this – happened. Don’t know what it may have been called in NYC – but it happened in every city. And the same bureaucracy that tore down tens of thousands of houses in favor of streets in the post-WW2 era – did what they could to prevent any of that from working

    1. Poor Jeffie. Can’t afford a car.

    2. I’m thinking you missed this line from the article, “…if cars skid into dining areas, which are often set up in blocked-off parking spots and on sidewalks.” If you search on the bubble maker they are trying to take advantage of the free publicity and have several links to stories with pics and video of that restaurant which date back to September. From those it’s clear the white tent with red top on the right edge of the pic is actually in the on-street parking area of Broadway. Going with Hanlon’s razor, I’d say the afterthought is the result of myopic gov’t officials wearing rose colored glasses and assuming Covid wasn’t going be a thing for the, then pending, flu season.

      1. I’m thinking you missed this line from the article, “…if cars skid into dining areas, which are often set up in blocked-off parking spots and on sidewalks.”

        No I didn’t miss that line from the article. And the photograph is very clearly at odds with the line from that article. And in fact the various sorts of rules/etc re outdoor dining this year in various cities are at odds with the assumptions in that article.

        The assumption in the article being that outdoor dining rules by govt have taken precedence over car rules by govt. When in most cases, the changes in street traffic are very very temporary – in some cases, only for a set number of hours in a day – which is why it is restaurants/customers who have to scramble around finding an alternative space for dining when the cars return. And why govts are creating a bunch of bogus rules for that – because the car is god of the street space and everything else has to get out of the way.

        idk where that photo actually is. But even if the red tent area is projecting onto the street just off-photo, the street itself is not being shut down/off. Those two bubble pods are clearly restricted to the sidewalk. The street is not being shut down

        1. Ok, I accept the stock photo doesn’t clearly show the tent in the street and maybe a better option was available but I don’t feel it’s at odds with the article either.

          Sure, they are now requiring heavy barriers for cars that skid with winter weather but the only time it needs to move is when snow is expected not because they’re shifting from dining space hours to parking space hours. Requiring dirt filled barriers seems odd since they also want water barriers. It seems to me that one could have just water barriers filled with heated circulating fluid which would provide heat and protection and could be quickly drained to make the barriers light enough to easily move during snow events.

          I also expect that like many northern locales they either have sidewalk snow removal or require the property owner to clear the sidewalk which likely requires moving the pods regardless. Perhaps they move them anyway to avoid theft. Two decades ago when I went to Paris the sidewalks were clear in the morning as shop owners were busy hosing the sidewalk clean but by noon there were tables and chairs everywhere.

          As for where it actually is, it’s in Manhattan southbound on Broadway just before W 104th street. The sidewalk there easily wide enough to fit a full size pickup perpendicular to the curb so even with bubble pods on each side there is plenty of space for pedestrians to pass through in both directions. Yes, those two pods are on the sidewalk but given the proximity to the corner it makes sense that they might want a bit more visibility for pedestrians on the corner because the street is not shut down although a few parking spaces directly out front are. That said, never been there and never expect to go as I’d much prefer to go out the back door, walk down the hill to the creek, and go fishing.

          1. But the point of my comment and, implicitly, the article itself was that some stuff really is taken for granted in the US. Even in a city like NYC where half the population doesn’t even own a car and where for a year now traffic has diminished hugely. It doesn’t matter. The streets (22% of land in NYC – as much land as 1/2 family housing and nearly twice as much as multifamily housing or mixed res/comm) are for cars. There’s an entire city bureaucracy (dating back to Robert Moses) that enforces the most arbitrary slavish rules to keep the car dominant on that land.

            These winter rules (same thing happened here in Denver – even though Denver is notoriously crappy about plowing the streets) are clearly about reinstating the hierarchy about streets. Streets are for cars. And in winter that means everyone else better get out of the way.

            1. Everything is so terrible and unfair, J.

              But hey, look on the bright side…. at least they’re making lots o’ rules! Haha.

          2. And btw – I too like space that’s outdoors with hiking and fishing and hunting and camping and nature stuff. It’s one of the reasons I own a car even though I live in a city and will always prefer that as a place to live.

            In the city, I prefer it to be governed by those who actually live there rather than by those who care more about the convenience of those just passing through.

            In the country, I prefer it to be governed by those who actually live there rather than by those who care more about the convenience of those just passing through.

            For reasons I can’t quite figure, both the above seems like an appalling idea to most people.

    3. Don’t worry, California is way ahead of you, building sports arenas for 50,000 with 10,000 parking spaces. The better to get people to utilize the trains.

      1. That’s quite reasonable imo.

        Those sports arenas are taxpayer subsidized and you can damn well bet the main subsidy is land cronyism. Buying tons of land – for parking lots – is just a way of ensuring the cronyism is as expensive as it can possibly be and that the parcel size self-limits to areas that are predictable ahead of time so a land owner in the know can jump in early and corner the only possible spot.

        And make sure you have tons of parking spaces at that particular destination to ensure that all the roads around it and through out the area get plenty of free traffic volume to ensure that no one can question the previous subsidies given to roadland transportation.

        It’s all ‘the free market’ in action ennit.

        1. So terrible and unfair. Cry some more. Haha.

  9. Just easier to stay in your home cell and wait for your city-approved daily nutrition package.

    1. Are crickets considered vegan?

      1. No; they are insects.

  10. I wonder if Amazon will have separate restaurants with different cuisines, or if we’ll be able to get sushi and chili dogs at any of them.

  11. Finding it so, so hard to give a shit about this. If you live and work in NYC you pretty much deserve it at this point.

    1. Also

      Preserving the country’s greatest restaurant scene

      Las Vegas and the greater southwest would like a word with you.

  12. They hyper-safety society is going to be our end.

    Demolition Man is our future.

    Society of pussies .

    Masks are a product of how weak and scared little shits we’ve become.

    1. Haha. Yup. Rufus knows what’s up!

  13. In good news today Israel with the worlds largest percent of population vaccinated reported 94% reduction in symptomatic cases among those vaccinated. So the stuff works as advertised in the real world.

    In bad news we still don’t have nearly enough vaccine here to make a dent in it.

    1. Everyone I speak to is appalled at how user-unfriendly our rollout is. And the expansion of eligibility certainly didn’t help matters in that regard.

      But you know what? as rocky as the logistics have been, we’re still getting 1.7M shots into arms daily (a 500% increase in six weeks), which gets us to critical mass in time for summer. And that’s before the second wave of candidates have been approved.

      1. I am eligible and still on waiting list. Three of them actually.

        Hopefully people are just ignoring stupid rules and not wasting doses.

    2. Israel’s excess death rate took a plunge in Oct back down to average values for all age ranges.

      1. They also instituted a strict lockdown following a spike in September. There are still lockdown measures which they are hoping can be lifted in the near future.

        They had made a deal with Pfizer to share data with them in exchange for a steady supply of vaccine. They are basically an experiment.

        They can do this because of the health care system. All Israelis are enrolled in one of four HMOs. So they have data on everyone. Also it is a smaller country so easier to initiate a mass vaccination program.

        One innovation I read about was they developed containers about the size of a pizza box which can carry and keep cold 100 doses of the super cooled vaccine. This allows them to quickly transport to outlying clinics without the special freezers.

    3. Don’t be silly. We have so much vaccine there are laws requiring it to be thrown away rather than go to an unperson.

  14. Uh, wouldn’t it be safer without the bubbles?

  15. Doesn’t look like much fun. I suppose it is better than nothing for the restaurant workers.

  16. Would be interesting to see it it turn out to be a market place for hungry people!

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