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HARLEM, Manhattan — The New York City Council is trying to come to the rescue of the beleaguered restaurant business during this pandemic.

“To get outdoor seating at this time would mean being able to keep Melba’s open,” Melba Wilson, the owner of Melba’s, told PIX11 News.
Melba’s, a Harlem restaurant of American comfort food, has been a 16 year labor of love for the sole owner

This Harlem born and bred restauranteur is so grateful that the city council is trying to help her and thousands of other restaurant owners across the city survive once phase three of the city’s reopening begins.

Wilson is hoping her restaurant, which used to seat 109 people in pre-COVID times, may now be able to include outdoor seating on 114th Street and Frederick Douglass Boulevard to ensure social distancing if legislation introduced by Speaker Corey Johnson and council member Antonio Reynoso is approved.

“Restaurants are the thread that communities need to thrive,” Wilson told PIX11 News. “We need our restaurants to come back,” she added.

The bill requires the city to identify open spaces including sidewalks, streets and plazas where restaurants and bars could safely serve customers outside and it would create a fast, simple permit process to give restaurants outdoor seating.

“The food establishments, the restaurants, would apply for open space to the Departmdn of Consumer Affairs,” speaker Johnson said in a zoom news conference. “The program would expire on October 31 or whenever social distancing is lifted,” he added. Mayor de Blasio said he hadn’t seen the legislation yet.

“We will certainly work with the city council but I want to hear what restaurant owners have to say,” Mayor de Blasio said at his daily briefing.

At Sojourn Restaurant on East 79th Street, no outdoor seating has been allowed in the past but owner Sammy Muscovit is hoping this new bill will change all that. With an indoor seating capacity of just 75 before the pandemic, outdoor seating will give Sojourn a shot at surviving.

“We can only use 25 percent of our space , if I can put people outside, that would certainly help the bottom line,” Musovit said.

It is not known when Phase 3 of the reopening of New York City will take place.