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NYC passes bill to make pandemic-era outdoor dining program permanent, with more specific guidelines

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By Jessica Xing, CNN

(CNN) — The New York City Council approved a bill Thursday to make the pandemic-era outdoor dining program a permanent part of the city, with some restrictions, according to the Office of New York City Mayor Eric Adams.

The city instituted the outdoor dining program in 2020 under the administration of Adams’ predecessor, Bill de Blasio, to assist the struggling restaurant industry during the height of the pandemic. Restaurants were allowed to build dining structures on the roads outside of the restaurant and install tables on the sidewalk, allowing diners to eat outside as the Covid-19 pandemic compelled city officials to place restrictions and capacity limits on indoor dining.

Under the new bill, however, roadway dining structures such as outdoor sheds will need to be removed during the winter. Sidewalk dining will be allowed with a permit all year-round, according to a statement from the city council.

The bill, which passed by a vote of 34 to 11, was sponsored by Councilwoman Marjorie Velazquez. It replaces the temporary program in 2020 that allowed restaurants to use sidewalks or roadways year-round.

“The temporary program saved 100,000 jobs, kept restaurants afloat during the peak of the pandemic, and brought new energy and excitement to our streets and sidewalks,” Adams said in a statement. “But it wasn’t perfect — too many sheds were abandoned and left to rot and too few lived up to our vision of what our streets should look like.”

Restaurants will also need a license for all outdoor dining structures and will need to now pay a fee based on location and square footage, the bill says.

“Outdoor dining helped buoy New York City’s economy during the Covid lockdowns and has been embraced as a creative solution to address the post-pandemic economic crisis,” Velazquez said in a statement. “I am proud to have advocated for our small businesses throughout this process and look forward to seeing them thrive.”

The Department of Transportation will be responsible for enforcing and administering licenses, the NYC Council said in a statement.

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