Restaurants Have Lavish Setups for Outdoor Winter Dining
A Latin fusion restaurant in Queens will serve crispy arepa cups and ropa vieja at an outdoor dining chalet with rustic wood beams and sparkling chandeliers.
In the Bronx, an Italian place has winter-proofed its back patio with Plexiglas walls and electric heaters, along with festive vines with pink flowers.
And a Manhattan bistro is handing out silver space blankets to shivering diners.
A pandemic that has upended much of life in New York is now ushering in something the city has never really tried: dining by snow and ice. Or, as some restaurants are telling customers, the new BYOB is bring your own blanket.
The explosion of outdoor dining has been a savior for more than 10,000 restaurants and bars that have taken over sidewalks, streets and public spaces to try to keep their businesses afloat. It has been so popular that Mayor Bill de Blasio and the City Council are making outdoor dining permanent.
But year-round dining outside is untested in the city’s bone-chilling winters, and has created daunting challenges for an industry fighting to survive.
“Are we going to have a mild winter or a harsh one?” said Andrew Rigie, executive director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance, an industry group. “It’s a gamble. With so much uncertainty about the weather and diner behavior, it’s a risk.”
While a financial imperative for restaurants, enclosing outdoor areas for winter has raised health concerns as coronavirus cases in New York have started to rise again. Protecting patrons from the elements has led some restaurants to create shelters that lack sufficient ventilation, raising the risk of transmission.
Outdoor heaters — including propane heaters that had been banned in the city but are now permitted as a way to help restaurants — could also pose fire hazards.
Still, with restaurants having few options to make money, New York and other cities are forging ahead with winter outdoor dining.Chicago held a design challenge that drew ideas like a Japanese-style heated table and a modular cabin inspired by ice-fishing huts that fits on a parking spot.
In New York, the multibillion-dollar restaurant industry, one of the city’s most important economic pillars, has been decimated by the pandemic. Indoor dining has resumed, but at only 25% capacity.
文／Winnie Hu and Nate Schweber 李京倫／譯 樂慧生／核稿