NYC clarifies what outdoor dining structures should look like, says customers can’t go in to use bathroom

Coronavirus
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Outdoor dining structure in Astoria, Dec. 17, 2020.

NEW YORK CITY — Update: New York has reversed course on a restaurant-bathroom ban after overnight backlash, the mayor’s office said.

Original story:
Outdoor diners in New York City cannot go indoors to use the restroom at the restaurant they’re dining at.

It’s one of many takeaways from a new supplemental guidance list issued by the city Thursday.

With indoor dining closed, the city said customers cannot enter restaurants at all — even to pick up a takeout order; only curbside pickup is allowed.

Customers partaking in outdoor dining looking to use the bathroom are out of luck, too.

Plus, don’t plan on placing a to-go order at the door: orders must be placed remotely, either by phone or online, so that no customers enter the facility.

The new page-and-a-half document also gives guidance on outdoor structures — countless of which have popped up on city streets and sidewalks since the summer.

As cooler weather approached, barricades turned into bungalows, prompting some to raise questions over what really constitutes being “outdoors” and COVID-safe.

Structures must have at least two open sides for airflow. If it doesn’t, it’s now considered indoor dining, and can’t be used until either the restaurateur modifies the structure, or once indoor dining resumes in New York City.

What about structures with sides that are covered with plastic, tarps or other materials? The city says those don’t count as “open” sides.

Outdoor dining was closed Wednesday due to inclement weather, but resumed Thursday evening — though diners were scarce; temperatures were frigid and snow was impossible to miss.

Indoor dining was put on hold Monday due to rising COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the city.

While the the decisions to reduce or shut down dining have been made to try to limit the spread of COVID-19 in public places as the pandemic’s second wave rages on, it’s drawn the ire of local business owners who are struggling with just a fraction of their usual customers for months on end.

Many New York staples have already closed permanently, unable to recover from the lack of revenue.

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