#NYC restaurants gearing up for Phase 2 reopening, outdoor dining

#NYC restaurants gearing up for Phase 2 reopening, outdoor dining

Big Apple restaurants and bars are eagerly, yet cautiously gearing up to open for outdoor dining Monday as the city enters Phase Two of reopening from its coronavirus closure.

“If I get 10 customers I’ll be happy. We’ll start slow and hopefully grow and get more business,” said Daniele Kucera, the owner of Etcetera Etcetera, a two-story Italian eatery in Hell’s Kitchen, Manhattan.

Kucera said he plans to set up five tables on the sidewalk Monday under Mayor Bill de Blasio’s outdoor dining plan that allows for eateries to expand seating to sidewalks, curb lanes in the street and in plazas.

But the restaurateur said he’s worried about foot traffic.

“There is no Broadway, no parties, people are still out of town. Hopefully we’ll have a little more business than just deliveries, and even deliveries are going slow. We’ll see what happens,” said Kucera, adding, “It’s not a great setting here [for outdoor dining].”

“Unfortunately there are a lot of homeless people and drug addicts begging in this area and there is nothing being done for that,” he said.

Taso Verteouris, the owner of Nature’s Grill Cafe on Smith Street in Carroll Gardens, said that he registered online with the city to put extra tables out on the sidewalk, and expects to get approval.

“It’s incredible that they’re giving us something for free so we’re happy about that,” Verteouris said of the city’s outdoor dining plan. “Outdoor dining permits normally cost $6,000 for the year so we’re glad the city is doing something for us.”

“I’ll be able to set up about eight tables outside with social distancing,” he said.

Verteouris, who also co-owns two other Nature’s Grill Cafe outposts, noted that mom-and-pop shops like his were financially-ravaged from the coronavirus pandemic, “so how can we be excited about reopening next week.”

“It’s a start, but we don’t know yet how comfortable people will feel sitting down at a restaurant or even what the fall and winter will look like,” he said. “There is a large feeling of uncertainty because we don’t know what the future looks like.”


Manso and Del Gatto inside of Socarrat Paella Bar.

James Messerschmidt


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An executive order issued by de Blasio creates a new and expedited online approval process for bars and restaurants across the five boroughs to expand seating capacity outdoors as long as they meet city guidelines.

Under Phase Two of the state’s four-phase reopening plan there can be outdoor dining, but not indoor dining.

Bar Great Harry, a corner watering hole on Sackett and Smith streets across from Nature’s Grill Cafe, also applied with the city to utilize outdoor seating, a bartender said.

“There is a little bit of relief that the city hasn’t made it unnecessarily difficult to get support that we need,” said barkeep Arion Toles. “I think we’ll be able to put two or three tables along Sacket Street and hope that people will come.”

Brian Dykeman, the co-owner of Smith Street’s Zombie Hut, said that the bar was approved under the city’s self-certification outdoor dining process.

“The process was extremely straightforward, and only took a minute or two, and we had an immediate approval response,” Dykeman said.

“We are extremely excited to welcome our guests back into our outdoor seating areas, and look forward to having them inside as well when the time comes,” said Dykeman.

Dykeman pointed to some concerns on reopening including bathroom use and the chance of rain.

“If I have a socially distanced full backyard, when it starts pouring, what do I do? Kick them all out? They can’t all huddle inside until it stops raining,” he said, explaining, “There are a bunch of issues that I’m sure will come up.”

Midtown’s Socarrat Paella Bar plans to put out two tables of four on the sidewalk and two tables of four on its patio, and possibly the same on the roadway out front of the eatery, depending on whether it gets approval from the city.

“This is a battle. This is going to war,” said owner Lolo Manso. “We have to do the best we can and we have to protect ourselves and our customers. To be safe is first. And to do the best we can and pray a lot.”

“If we do it right, hopefully everything will be good,” Manso said.

As of Friday evening, the city had received more than 1,250 sidewalk/roadway seating applications for outdoor dining, according to a City Hall spokesperson.

Additional reporting by Julia Marsh

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