On Thursday, Mayor Bill de Blasio officially announced that the city would enter Phase 2 of reopening on Monday, June 22nd, as expected. Later on Thursday, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that he's not ready to say the city could start Phase 2 on Monday, but would be able to confirm by tomorrow. (Please cross off "Bigfoots de Blasio" on your Cuomo bingo cards.)

With Phase 2, the city will see the return of bars and restaurants, albeit with limitations like no indoor dining. While an "Open Restaurants Program" was announced in early June, the City Council had previously criticized de Blasio for not acting sooner to lay the groundwork for a Phase 2 outdoor dining plan; in May, Corey Johnson said, "We hope that this piece of legislation, even the conversation around it, pushes [the administration] a little bit to start to engage... We cannot wait until we're already into Phase 1 or 2. We should already be having interagency meetings now, well in advance of when this would actually happen, so you can work through the kinks."

Alas, while reopening restaurants and bars under the Phase 2 plan will begin on Monday, a main component will not be enacted until July: the opening of street space for these establishments. So it's quite possible we'll be seeing the same sidewalk chaos we've been seeing in previous weeks as some establishments reopen without sufficient outdoor space. And it's anyone's guess what a block with several bars will look like as the night goes on.

The Mayor's Office said today that "if there are continued issues with non-compliance, the establishments will have their Open Restaurant authorization revoked by DOT." He stressed that keeping customers safe will be the establishment's job, and that they'll be "connecting business owners with a directory of wholesalers selling sneeze guards, PPE, and other equipment."

"New Yorkers and diners – we are all in this together and we need to do our best to keep each other healthy,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot. “Please remember the core four to preventing COVID-19 whether you’re staff or a patron — maintain distance, practice good hand hygiene, wear face coverings while not eating or drinking and stay home if sick." However, the plan states that patrons do not need to wear face coverings while seated.

Courtesy of the DOT

Phase 2 outdoor dining and drinking will include:

  • Curb Lane Seating (pilot through Labor Day) — "Will not exceed length of business frontage, and be separated from the travel lane with a barrier (planters, barricades)"
  • Sidewalk Seating (through October) —  "Must maintain a clear path free from obstructions between the seating and the curb"
  • Backyard & Patio Seating
  • Open Streets Seating (beginning in July)
  • Plaza Seating through Business Improvement Districts — "restaurants can work with their local Business Improvement District and DOT to request additional seating in plazas" (establishments can email: Plazas@dot.nyc.gov)

The Department of Transportation will be working "with community groups and partner agencies to identify additional seating within full street closures in July." However, not every restaurant and bar will be able to get access to outdoor space — "restrictions on areas ineligible for roadway seating including ‘No Standing Anytime’ curbs, bus stops, within 15’ of hydrants, etc."

The application process opens on Friday, June 19th, when the DOT will post an online self-certification application for sidewalk and curb seating.

A bar offers outdoor seating on the sidewalk

Here's what the bar scene may look like.

Here's what the bar scene may look like.
Scott Lynch / Gothamist

De Blasio says the plan will help save 5,000 or more restaurants (to put that in perspective, there are over 27,000 restaurants in New York City). Additionally, he believes 5,000 workers will have jobs preserved through this initiative.