Bronx councilmen call on de Blasio to streamline outdoor dining enforcement

Councilmen Andrew Cohen was among the pols who sent a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio urging the administration to streamline oversight of outdoor dining enforcement
Courtesy of Office of CM Cohen

Four New York City councilmen, including two from the Bronx, want the mayor to get on top of outdoor dining enforcement.

On July 16, Councilmen Andrew Cohen, Mark Gjonaj, Justin Brannan and Robert Cornegy, Jr. sent a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio urging the administration to streamline oversight of outdoor dining enforcement by creating clear standards across city agencies and addressing inconsistencies in the Open Restaurants program.

“We are writing because the lack of a cohesive outdoor dining enforcement process is causing restaurant owners unnecessary hardship,” the letter states. “Owners are frustrated by conflicting requirements from city agencies, for example, FDNY has a different set of standards than DOB. The outdoor dining program was created as a short-term solution to help restaurants restart their businesses in a way that allows for social distancing. As such, the requirements should ensure restaurants meet safety standards to protect the community, but oversight of the outdoor dining plan should not overburden owners with unnecessary layers of interagency bureaucracy.”

Yet, owners continue to struggle with the costly process of rebuilding outdoor dining structures and adapting operations on short notice to maintain compliance with changing regulations and conflicting interagency requirements. In one instance, restaurant owners were given 24 hours to overhaul their outdoor seating plans after new guidelines were added after the initial set of rules were announced.

Cohen, chair of the Committee on Consumer Affairs and Business Licensing, expressed his frustrations with the outdoor dining.

“Restaurant owners struggling to get back on their feet after months of financial devastation need a cohesive outdoor dining enforcement process and clear guidance, not red tape and bureaucracy,” Cohen said. “While I understand and appreciate the enormous effort on the part of the administration in launching a program of this magnitude to help businesses reopen safely, thousands of restaurants are counting on us to get this right. On top of fighting to save their businesses and ensure the safety of their workers and customers, restaurant owners should not have to take on the added burden of adapting to constantly changing guidelines and conflicting interagency rules.”

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