How’s this for timing? Just before summer, New York City’s Department of Consumer Affairs is threatening to close down sidewalk cafes at 17 popular restaurants unless they can prove they comply with zoning regulations.
Oddly enough, according to the New York Business Journal, the Consumer Affairs threat comes less than a month after city officials reportedly began working toward loosening an ordinance against serving food at sidewalk cafes before noon on Sundays, commonly referred to as the city’s “brunch law.”
Three options were provided to restaurants:
Option No. 1: Provide the city with a “certified land survey”to prove the cafe business is conducted on private property.
Option No. 2: Filing for an exemption of zoning law.
Option No. 3: Surrender the business permit and close up the outdoor shop.
The New York Post claims that in some cases, the eateries targeted have been serving street-side customers for more than two decades.
“Please be advised you have 100 business days from and including May 1 to complete one of the following options,”the agency notified owners on April 29. New York restaurants that have received notices include Sant Ambroeus, Friend of the Farmer on Irving Place, and Sushi Choshi.
Apparently diners were not happy about the latest Bloomberg Administration edict. “That’s ridiculous. That would take away the cultural image of the West Village,”said Jane Lowe, who was dining outside at Sant Ambroeus with her parents.
“I don’t know what to do,”said Chel Seng, owner of Sushi Choshi on Irving Place. “It will affect us. It’s very busy in the summer. It’s a main reason people come” to sit outside”
Joseph Levey, whose law firm, Helbraun, Levey & Odonoghue, represents hundreds of city eateries warned that many cafes could go under. “The owners are panicked,”he said.
The New York Observer reports New York is following a trend started by other cities, such as Philadelphia.
“They have begun to perform to monthly inspections to ensure that none of the restaurant cafes interferes with public space and all are within compliance of sidewalk regulations.”
The New York Observer must be referring to an East Coast trend, because according to the San Diego Union-Tribune, San Diego is actually loosening outdoor dining rules in order to encourage more sidewalk cafes.
City officials in Philadelphia have received increasing complaints about blocked and impassable sidewalks, forcing the city to beef up enforcement efforts involving the placement of tables, chairs and other furnishings.
“Sidewalk cafes are a valued amenity as they promote a lively and festive atmosphere on city streets,”acting Philadelphia Streets Commissioner David Perri said in a statement.
“Cafe operators, however, need to adhere to their approved seating plans and be diligent in keeping public sidewalks safe and accessible for all users”