This week Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation allowing restaurants to utilize municipal spaces like sidewalks and streets for outdoor dining. First granted under an executive order by the Governor, this law allows restaurants to continue using these public spaces for another year as they recover from the economic devastation brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As we build New York back better than it was before, it’s important that we learn from the past and capitalize on those efforts that helped so many of New York’s small businesses survive amid the global pandemic,” Governor Cuomo said. “By extending the much-needed lifeline that allowed restaurants to use outdoor public spaces for seating during the pandemic, New York is ensuring that these small businesses will be able to continue to use these spaces as they work to rebuild and support the revitalization of the Empire State.”
Restaurants were especially impacted by the pandemic, with many continuing to struggle as New York recovers. The continued use of public spaces builds upon other supports provided to these establishments by the state, including the $800 million COVID-19 Pandemic Small Business Recovery Grant Program.
Initially issued in June 2020 and expiring after a year, the Governor’s executive order allowed restaurants and bars to serve their patrons food or beverages on-premises in outdoor space while their indoor capacity was limited. Specifically, these establishments were permitted to expand the licensed premises to use public space such as sidewalks or closed streets, subject to reasonable limitations and procedures set by the State Liquor Authority and the safety and supervision plans of the local municipality.
With the conclusion of the declared Disaster Emergency, the executive orders must be codified by the Legislature to continue in effect or rely on other existing regulatory power of a state agency. In this case, the legislation was necessary to allow the state Liquor Authority the discretion to continue the use of this space without prior approval.
Restaurant usage of outdoor public space must meet all federal, state, and local laws, rules, and guidance, according to the signed legislation. Restaurants must also have a temporary use permit from the municipality, which is tasked with ensuring the public space is used in a safe, orderly manner. New applicants will need to provide community notification in a manner consistent state Alcoholic Beverage Control Law.
Senator Roxanne Persaud said, “I applaud Governor Cuomo’s signing of legislation to extend outdoor dining and beverage sales for on-site consumption on sidewalks and adjacent slivers of municipal land for an additional year. During the COVID-19 pandemic, dining establishments have struggled to remain open. It has been a pleasure to work with Assembly Member Pat Fahy and colleagues to craft a policy that will assist numerous small businesses in recovering from the economic fallout. I thank the Governor and our Legislative Leaders for coming to a swift agreement on this important measure.”
Assemblymember Patricia Fahy said, “Outdoor dining utilizing sidewalks and street space has become a financial lifeline for restaurants during the pandemic. Not only has it helped hundreds of small, locally owned businesses remain in business, it’s also proved a popular boon to our local economies and ‘Main Streets.’ This legislation will allow those restaurants to continue utilizing outdoor spaces for another year to help keep their doors open and continue to help them get back on track, and I commend the Governor for extending New York’s ‘open streets.'”