New York Daily News: MANHATTAN, NY – The city’s COVID-era outdoor dining initiative, which allows restaurants to use sidewalk and street space to serve customers, will become permanent, Mayor de Blasio announced Friday.

“We will make the Open Restaurants initiative, permanent — and year-round,” de Blasio said on the Brian Lehrer show. “This has been, I think, an extraordinarily positive experiment, and it’s worked.”

The Open Restaurants program allows restaurants to use sidewalks and street space, primarily parking spots, to serve diners eating outdoors. Despite its popularity — more than 10,000 restaurants are now participating in the program — its long-term fate had become uncertain in recent weeks as temperatures began to dip and with winter on the horizon.

“We hope — I believe — this is going to make it a lot easier for restaurants to survive,” de Blasio said, estimating that the program has saved nearly 100,000 jobs.

His announcement comes as the city braces for indoor dining to resume next week. That plan will allow restaurants to operate at 25% capacity, a number that prompted many restaurant owners to point out that it will not be enough for them to survive and to call for outdoor dining in the colder months.

De Blasio said he wants restaurants to provide heating for outdoor diners in the winter and that restaurants would also be able to enclose outdoor spaces, but such enclosures would be subject to the 25% limit on customers.

“This is something we’re going to get to work on right away,” he said. “We’re going to work with the City Council. Some of this will be, will require legislation. Other pieces are administrative, but this is a go. We want this to be something the restaurant industry can depend on.”

Open Streets, another COVID-era city program that allows streets to be opened up to diners and pedestrians, would also become permanent under the mayor’s plan.

Eighty-seven streets have so far been closed down to vehicular traffic as part of that program. De Blasio said Friday he intends to expand it.

  • Top Feature Photo: Patrons are seen here taking advantage of outdoor dining areas setup on Stanton Street between Ludlow Street and Essex Street in Manhattan – Theodore Parisienne/for New York Daily News