New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has unveiled a new city initiative aimed at helping struggling businesses during the pandemic by allowing retailers to set up shop on the sidewalk.
The mayor on Wednesday announced he has signed an executive order for the Open Storefronts program, in which eligible businesses will be able to participate beginning on Friday through New Year’s Eve.
The program is an extension of the city’s existing Open Streets plan implemented this summer that allowed more than 10,000 restaurants across the city to set up outdoor dining spaces, with a few minor exceptions.
Mayor Bill de Blasio on Wednesday announced the city’s new ‘Open Storefronts’ program due to begin on Friday
De Blasio said the program will allow for stores to continue business operations safely amid the pandemic during the upcoming holiday season
Businesses – which include any involved in the sale of commercial goods such as clothing, retail food, personal care items – can utilize their sidewalk space as long as their storefront is located on the ground floor and directly accessible from the street.
NYC OPEN STOREFRONTS REQUIREMENTS
Who is eligible?
- Any ground floor storefront business predominantly involved in the sale of goods and/or services directly to the public. Includes businesses engaged in retail trade (i.e. clothing and equipment stores, retail food stores, health and personal care stores) as well as repair stores, personal care services, and dry-cleaning and laundry services
- A ‘ground floor storefront’ business is a business which is directly accessible from the street and has store frontage on the sidewalk.
What is/ is not allowed?
- May erect temporary signage, display goods, complete transactions, place seating and ropes/stanchions, conduct promotional activities, and place collapsible umbrellas and tents in eligible sidewalk areas and in roadway areas as part of Open Streets: Restaurants.
- May not place heaters in outdoor areas
- May sell only dry goods outdoors, excluding items prohibited from outdoor sale (i.e. liquor, cigarettes/tobacco/e-cigarettes, pharmaceuticals, adult content)
- May not conduct personal services (i.e. haircuts, cosmetology) outdoors
- May only sell goods outdoors that a business is already licensed to sell indoors, or do not need a new license to sell
- Must abide by all existing permits and regulations that relate to product display and sales
- May allow for outdoor drop-off & pick-up of customer purchases
- Amplified sound is prohibited
- May not allow other businesses to use fronting sidewalk or roadway (for free or otherwise) except for a restaurant with permission to do so
- May conduct eligible activities from October 30 through December 31, 2020
- Must suspend all outdoor activities while a DSNY Snow Alert is in effect
Stores are free to display their merchandise outside and erect temporary signage, tents, or umbrellas during operating hours, according to the order.
But unlike New York City restaurants, stores are limited to sidewalk space and cannot set up on the curb or roadway unless they are already on an existing ‘open street’ where this is permitted.
Business owners are also required to leave an eight-foot path for pedestrians and cannot block subway grates, fire hydrants, doors or bus stops.
A full list of eligibility requirements and the application are available on the Open Storefronts website.
De Blasio said the program will allow for stores to resume business safely amid the pandemic during the upcoming holiday season.
The idea was modeled after the Open Streets concept which the mayor said involved ‘cutting a lot of red tape’ and turned out to be a ‘big hit’ among struggling business owners.
‘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,’ he said in a news conference.
He also encouraged New Yorkers not to travel during the holidays and to ‘buy local’ instead.
The new project has managed to obtain the seal approval from NYC’s Business Improvement Districts and the NYC Small Business association which have been lobbying for an outdoor program.
‘The NYC BID thank [Mayor Bill de Blasio] and [Commissioner Jon Doris] for announcing an exciting and bold Open Storefronts plan today to help save our retail businesses at this critical moment,’ the BID said in a statement on Twitter.
‘It is our hope that this program combined with Open Streets and Open Dining will create a vibrant atmosphere for street life and commercial activity during the upcoming holiday season.’
But not all New Yorkers were as pleased with the new announcement with some expressing concern over potential congestion on the streets and inclement weather.
‘DO ANY NYC agencies work TOGETHER when developing this kind of plan? 8′ sidewalk clearance is not enough for safe walking during#COVID19 social distancing,’ resident Joanna Oltman Smith tweeted.
1010 WINS reporter Juliet Papa added that the program could turn the city into a ‘massive street fair.’
The new initiative, which is expected to reach 40,000 small businesses, comes amid mounting pressure for city and state officials to lift indoor dining restrictions.
Owners are begging Cuomo to send them a sign as thousands of the city’s eateries are on the brink of closure after more than eight months of crushing coronavirus restrictions.
The governor allowed indoor dining to resume at 25 percent capacity on September 30 with a goal to increase to 50 percent on November 1 if infection rates remained low.
But as that date approaches in just five days amid a spike in cases across parts of Brooklyn and Queens, many restaurateurs fear that Cuomo will delay the forthcoming capacity expansion – even though some have already spent money preparing for it.
The plan was modeled after the Open Streets concept which the mayor said involved ‘cutting a lot of red tape’ and turned out to be a ‘big hit’ among struggling business owners
Not all New Yorkers were happy with the new plan with one woman saying it could ‘invite crime’ to neighborhoods
One critic argued the move will create a street parking nightmare however city officials have said stores will be limited to sidewalk space only
‘I think we would have heard by now if indoor dining was going to expand by November first. People need time to prepare,’ restaurant consultant Donny Evans told the New York Post.
‘Restaurateurs are scared. Without expanded indoor dining, there will be a tsunami of closings.’
Cuomo announced his tentative timeline for 50 percent indoor dining capacity on September 25, when New York City’s seven-day moving average for new coronavirus cases stood at 385, according to city health data.
But in the weeks after his announcement the infection rate began to climb, fueled by spikes in nine zip codes across Brooklyn and Queens that were subsequently forced to roll back reopenings.
Cuomo eased restrictions in some of the hotspot neighborhoods last week but several in Brooklyn – including Borough Park, Mapleton and Midwood – remain in the ‘red zone’.
As of Sunday the seven-day average for new cases across the city stood at 355.
A view of an outdoor dining facility setup in Manhattan as the city enters phase 3 of reopening amid the coronavirus pandemic