NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — With indoor dining postponed in New York City, outdoor seating is one of the few options for restaurants to stay in business, but some places are serving customers in the street without any protection from traffic.
Manhattan isn’t exactly known for being spacious, so restaurants are pretty limited with outdoor seating.
The city is allowing places to extend tables into the street, so CBS2’s Ali Bauman asked the transportation commissioner how the city is keeping diners safe.
Sipping cocktails in the street — this is curbside dining on Ninth Avenue in Hell’s Kitchen.
“Ninth Avenue is no Paris,” one woman said.
Some restaurants have wooden barricades around their tables, but others have less stable barriers.
Then there are restaurants without anything separating their chairs from traffic.
“Typically drivers are pretty good about being cognizant of pedestrians,” one man said.
“It’s too close to the cars and the fumes, and we’d rather just make food at home. We can be 100% safe,” another man said.
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Indoor dining was supposed to start in New York City next week but has been postponed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, which means eateries have to make do with serving outside even longer.
“We try to implement whatever we can with the sidewalk cafe tables, but unfortunately, it’s gonna be hard for us, we don’t have the indoor seating,” restaurant owner Andrea Giacomoni said.
Restaurants must apply with the Department of Transportation before putting tables in the street.
Thursday, DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg toured restaurants in Astoria ahead of the holiday weekend.
CBS2 showed her photos from Hell’s Kitchen.
“If folks see things that are concerning, call 311 and agencies will respond,” Trottenberg said.
For sidewalk dining, the city says seating and tables must be up against the wall of the business or as close as possible.
For roadway tables, restaurants are required to have a protective barrier on all three sides of seating in the street, marked with reflectors or reflective tape.
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“How often are the inspectors physically going out and inspecting areas that have a lot of restaurants?” Bauman asked.
“They are going to, over hopefully the coming days, get to every restaurant,” Trottenberg said.
Starting Friday, the city will close 22 streets to traffic on weekends, opening them for pedestrians and outdoor dining.
It’s already started on Restaurant Row in Hell’s Kitchen.
“We’re really hoping this will be a shot in the arm of the restaurant industry, but again, our message today is please, you gotta do it safely,” Trottenberg said.
The DOT says it will issue cease-and-desist orders for outdoor seating that’s not up to code, and restaurants can get up to a $1,000 fine for not complying.