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Photos: NYC's 'outdoor dining' is just what COVID ordered

The pandemic has forced restaurants to get creative for people's safety, but some in New York City are just turning outdoor spaces into indoor.

Colin Ridgway.
Restaurants are now taking over sidewalks across the five NYC boroughs.Photo: Colin Ridgway.
An "outdoor" restaurant in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.Photo: Colin Ridgway.

On December 11, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that indoor dining would shut down again in NYC on Monday, December 14, amid a new wave of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

Colin Ridgway

Cuomo said restaurants can continue to offer delivery and outdoor dining services. The problem, however, is that many businesses have turned their "outdoor" experience into indoor spaces that are taking over the sidewalks and streets of New York City.

Pictured here is a restaurant in Manhattan's Lower East Side.

There are thousands of "outdoor" restaurants in NYC with enclosures that health experts deem a high risk, since there's no ventilation that might help prevent the spread of the virus.Photo: Colin Ridgway
Not only are these makeshift structures unsafe for diners, but they're a creating a headache for drivers and pedestrians given how much they're taking over public spaces.Photo: Colin Ridgway.

According to New York State's outdoor dining guidelines, restaurants can only install "a temporary or fixed cover (i.e. awning, roof, or tent" if "two or more side walls are open, and at least one is parallel to the roadway."

Colin Ridgway

The rules also state there must be 6ft between tables, and no more than 10 people seated at one table.

And, "If three side walls or more are in use, the occupancy limit will be capped at 25 percent capacity, and all indoor dining guidelines must be followed" — which doesn't seem to be a guideline that restaurants across the city are following.

SoHo, Manhattan.Photo: Colin Ridgway.
Williamsburg, Brooklyn.Photo: Colin Ridgway.

Per New York State, “Outdoor space" is "defined as an open air space without a fixed roof (besides a temporary or seasonal awning or cover)." The guidelines go on to say that "an enclosed cafe with a permanent roof would not meet the definition."

Expectations.Photo: NYC.gov