How New York City Will Navigate Outdoor Dining in the Winter

Space heaters to the rescue.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio released guidelines this week to help restaurants continue their popular outdoor dining setups as the colder weather approaches.

Electric radiant heaters will be allowed on sidewalks and in streets, while both natural gas radiant heaters and propane portable heaters will be allowed for sidewalk setups, according to the mayor’s office.

“These guidelines are designed to keep diners, employees, and pedestrians safe and healthy – and we look forward to giving New Yorkers more chances than ever to enjoy the outdoors year-round," de Blasio said in a statement. "Restaurants make New York City the greatest city in the world, and we're proud to support their continued recovery from this crisis."

The decision comes weeks after the city resumed indoor dining, but only at 25 percent capacity, and as certain areas have seen a recent uptick in cases. New York City first allowed outdoor dining to resume in June, packing streets and sidewalks with tables, before extending it year-round on Sept. 25.

picnic tables outside of a restaurant in Brooklyn

The NYC Hospitality Alliance said in a statement the use of heaters “will be critically important for those restaurants and bars that are able to avail themselves,” but noted that less than half of the city’s restaurants and bars have participated in outdoor dining.

New York City, once a major part of the epicenter of COVID-19 in the U.S., has been slowly reopening. Museums were allowed to reopen on Aug. 24, for example, and officials are even considering opening a travel corridor between the city and London in time for the holidays.

But other parts of New York City have remained closed and will for a while yet. The New York Philharmonic canceled its shows until June of 202 — the first time in 178 years the orchestra will miss a season — Broadway will remain dark until May 2021, and the Metropolitan Opera has cancelled its performances until at least September 2021.

The famed New Year’s Eve Times Square ball drop will also go virtual this year with a scaled-back celebration that includes performances but not millions of in-person spectators.

Alison Fox is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure. When she’s not in New York City, she likes to spend her time at the beach or exploring new destinations and hopes to visit every country in the world. Follow her adventures on Instagram.

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