Cold comfort: NYC outdoor dining to remain through at least 2021

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In New York, it now appears, lasagna, lo mein and filet mignon are dishes best served cold.

The Big Apple’s expanded dining al fresco program — launched to help rescue restaurants and bars during the height of the coronavirus pandemic — will be made permanent under legislation approved by the City Council on Thursday.

Lawmakers overwhelmingly approved the outdoor dining bill by a vote of 46 to 2.

The bill — led by Councilman Antonio Reynoso (D-Brooklyn) — guarantees the program will continue without interruption through September 2021 and codifies new rules that allow establishments to set up heaters for patrons during the wintertime.

Mayor Bill de Blasio had already extended his executive orders governing the program through the wintertime and instructed the city’s Fire and Buildings departments to develop simplified permits for outdoor heaters.

City Hall rolled out the new and simplified regulations for electric, natural gas and propane heaters this week.

“The pandemic has hit our economy severely, our restaurant industry has been particularly hard hit,” said Council Speaker Corey Johnson during his press conference before the vote. “Outdoor dining has provided a lifeline to many restaurants.”

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli estimated this month that the pandemic could force up to half of Gotham’s restaurants and bars to close by next summer if there is not a substantial aid package from the federal government.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo OK’d allowing city eateries to begin serving customers inside again last month, but with strict conditions that include a 25 percent capacity cap to prevent another coronavirus outbreak.

Some restaurants and bars have been pushing authorities to loosen the restrictions and allow up to 50 percent capacity — the level allowed in the Empire State outside of New York City — as they struggle to hang on.

Cuomo said the state would reexamine the matter in November, but it’s unclear if the COVID-19 outbreaks in Brooklyn and Queens will delay those plans.

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