New York City’s restaurants, already staggered by the loss of indoor dining this week, must close their roadway dining programs at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, ahead of the major snowstorm that is expected to sweep into the area.
The closure order is temporary, and officials said it could be lifted by Thursday night. But the storm, a nor’easter, will pose a significant test for restaurant owners and of how the city’s now-permanent outdoor dining program can withstand severe winter weather.
The city is urging restaurants to remove the tops of their outdoor dining structures, but it will not require them to take those structures off the street.
For restaurants, the storm could be yet another blow to a struggling industry that has been in dire financial straits since pandemic restrictions were first implemented in March.
As outdoor dining has become an economic lifeline, restaurants and bars have seen their fortunes increasingly tied to weather conditions.
“Man versus nature is one of those classic literary conflicts,” Emmeline Zhao, a partner and the general manager of Silver Apricot in Manhattan, said. “But I feel like I’m living that out in real time.”
New York City initially introduced an expanded outdoor dining program in June, a bid to extend economic support to restaurants by allowing for tables on sidewalks, in parking areas and on streets where dining had previously been limited or forbidden.
The city’s Department of Sanitation, which is charged with snow removal, realized the roadway dining setups could pose challenges for plowing efforts, the acting sanitation commissioner, Edward Grayson, said.
Officials were concerned that the large structures would remove the space available to plows on the city’s narrower streets, making it more difficult for them to maneuver and clear snow. They also worried that diners seated at roadway tables could be pummeled by high-velocity snow hurled in the plows’ wake.
“We want to make sure we protect public safety, which is our job,” Mr. Grayson said. “But we’re also cognizant that, especially now, these small businesses, these restaurants, need to stay open as long as possible.”
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