The temperature in the city climbed up to 60 degrees this week—no snow, no strong wind, just warm sunshine. And after an unseasonably cold March, New Yorkers can’t wait to sit outside with food and drinks and enjoy the street view.
And restaurant owners can’t wait either. “The outdoor area doubles our business,” said Moin Uddin, manager of Dallas BBQ in the East Village. “It is also a good way to show that we are open, make people notice us and bring them inside.”
There are more than 800 sidewalk cafes in the city, according to statistics from New York City Economic Development Corporation. The first week in April is the time when they begin to put chairs and tables out in the street. Spring and early summer are their busiest seasons. “People will wait for outside tables rather than inside ones—just to be able to sit outside. Sometimes our customers wait for 20 to 40 minutes,” said Carrie Dolan, manager of Veselka, a Ukraine restaurant on 2nd Avenue.
For some bars, outdoor space is a way to keep their business running after the bar season, from October to March, comes to an end. “In the summer people go to places like Long Island and Jersey Shore so there aren’t many locals in the neighborhood,” said Shane Buggy, owner of the east village bar, the Copper Still. “Outdoor business is basically all we get in the summer—about 70 percent of our business comes from outside.” Buggy said.
The bar owner feels that his business is limited by the bar’s space. He sometimes has to turn customers away when the bar is full in cold weekends, because he can’t provide extra tables.
Some restaurants have their own ways to solve this problem. Lafayette, a French restaurant in NoHo, has an underground dining room for private events. “In the winter we switch our outdoor business downstairs,” said Matthew Eisentraut, the beverage manager at Lafayette. The restaurant contains 130 indoor seats and 80 outdoor seats, and the patio space is their busiest area from April to November. They place their outdoor seats downstairs to serve extra customers in the winter.