SCHUYLERVILLE, The Bronx (PIX11) — The pandemic-era outdoor dining sheds are here to stay thanks to a new law signed by New York City Mayor Eric Adams, making it the nation’s largest permanent outdoor dining program.

Outdoor dining has now permanently expanded to all five boroughs. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, it was only permitted on sidewalks, mainly in Manhattan.

Havana Cafe owner Kevin Alicea is backing the measure, calling it a saving grace during the pandemic. 

“It was 90% of our lifeline,” Alicea said. “Like everyone else, we did takeout. But just to be able to welcome people back to sit near the restaurant, even if it’s outside, was a huge morale booster for us, for our staff. It allowed us to bring more people back to work. It brought more revenue in.”

City officials named the program ‘Dining Out NYC.’ The new law will allow dining sheds to be up from April to November every year starting in 2024. 

“Dining Out NYC will be the largest in the nation and will shape New York City streets forever,” Adams said. “The permanent program is going to help our small businesses thrive, get people to spend money in our neighborhoods, and create great jobs for New Yorkers.”

While many restaurant-goers have championed the measure, it’s also drawing fierce opposition from New Yorkers like Ina Selven. She was part of a group that sued the city last year, challenging the program. She said one of the main concerns is the trash and rats the sheds attract. 

“There’s always been rats here, but not to this degree,” said Selven. “There are rat holes in the tree beds. There are rats running across 57th Street when they don’t get squashed by cars. It’s — I guess the operative word is travesty.”

But the mayor said the city is working to combat that problem. 

“You’re not going to have these garbage bags,” said Adams. “We all see them lined up around the sheds that are up now and just a real feeding frenzy. So it’s a combination of the design and what Jessica Tisch, the commissioner of DSNY, is doing with getting our trash bags off our streets.”

Dining sheds will have to be dismantled in the off-season, which owners like Alicea said could be costly after spending roughly $40,000 to build.

“For us, it may not make sense to put it up again, or it might, and that’s a conversation for me and my partners to have,” said Alicea. 

Participating restaurants can keep their existing sheds up through the rest of the year and begin applying for the permanent program as soon as early 2024. 

As for that lawsuit — Selven and a group of New Yorkers say they sued the city, challenging the emergency need for dining sheds being that the pandemic is over. A judge has yet to make a ruling in that case, which could leave the door open for more legal battles in the future.