Outdoor Dining Over Cars—Could it Happen in the United States?

Could New York City follow in the footsteps of...Vilnius?

2 minute read

May 1, 2020, 5:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

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Emilio Labrador / Flickr

After the Lithuanian capital city of Vilnius announced a plan to open 18 public open spaces in the historic core to al fresco dining and cafe uses, the idea has traction among prominent media outlets in New York City.

Tanay Warerkar writes for Eater New York to report that city officials are actually already pondering the idea, inspired not by Vilnius, but by the city's plan to open 100 miles of city streets to pedestrian and bike priority.

The possibility of moving restaurant seating to the streets was a question raised by a WNBC reporter at the Mayor’s press conference on Monday, an idea that de Blasio called “interesting.” The administration has “thought about it” and “begun discussions,” he said, though he added that it’s too early to unveil any plans. He went on to say that “there could be advantages to having more of it [restaurant seating] be outdoors.”

Writing for Slate, Henry Grabar expands the Vilnius model for consideration far beyond New York City, finding examples of cities already making new space for outdoor dining in space once reserved for cars. For instance:

In Brookhaven, a suburb of Atlanta, Mayor John Ernst has given restaurants permission to turn their parking into restaurant space. “For the next 90 days, Brookhaven will embrace alfresco dining,” he said.

Grabar's article concludes with the recommendation for choosing restaurants over cars in the wake of the pandemic—another version of the many choices facing U.S. communities as the the process of reopening the economy and daily lives threatens to significantly impact the patterns of  daily life to the detriment of the environment and social and economic equity.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020 in Eater New York

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