Following up on the Open Streets and Open Restaurants programs, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Wednesday that retail stores will be allowed to expand outdoors and into street space throughout the rest of the year as well.
The mayor said that Open Storefronts, modeled after those other two successful programs, will allow 40,000 small businesses to be able to sell items outside in front of their stores on the sidewalk; as with restaurants, businesses located on Open Streets will be able to use the curb lane in front as well. And businesses located on the same block can join together and apply to create an Open Street.
De Blasio said that the Open Restaurants program was an example "of cutting a lot of red tape, doing something that hadn't been done before, offering the opportunity for restaurants to use outdoor space and bring back their employees, and it turned out to be a big hit and something that really worked for New Yorkers. Let's apply that same idea to small businesses, retail businesses all over the five boroughs, that so much need additional business to survive, but it's hard to do if you have a small space and restrictions in space."
The mayor signed an executive order today stating that the program will run at least from October 30th through December 31st; he added that business owners can go online starting today and start applying to the program.
As for the fine print: there must be an eight foot clear path for pedestrians to pass by, which may be a challenge in certain parts of the city. Items on the sidewalk should be placed no more than five feet away from the front of the business (unless they are placed in applicable curb lanes in Open Streets). Businesses can use collapsable umbrellas and tents, but the equipment can't live outside like with some outdoor dining setups. You can see more details about the program here.
The NYC BID Association called this "an exciting and bold" plan to help small businesses during the crisis. "Our small businesses and their workers continue to suffer from the economic impacts of COVID-19, but this ambitious new program will usher in some hope for their survival."
Small Business Services Commissioner Jonnel Doris noted during today's press conference that about 70 percent of a retailer’s income comes from this period of the year, and De Blasio urged New Yorkers to shop locally during the holiday season.
"I want to remind people again, holidays are coming, it's a great opportunity to patronize local businesses," he said. "We all appreciate there's amazing stuff online, but let's really double down on our local businesses in this city. Let's give them the business they need to survive. We really hope and pray that this pandemic will be addressed by next year with a vaccine, this is going to be the toughest year for small businesses, this holiday season [needs] to be good and strong for them. We all can make a difference by buying local, so please do that."