NY outdoor dining curfew ends; restaurants seek permanent changes

New York state is lifting the curfew on dining service at all curbside setups in the state. Owners of bars and restaurants welcome the change but are pushing for legislation to help the struggling industry make a comeback.

Butera's Restaurant chef and owner Martin Butera said he was able to keep his Westbury business afloat during the pandemic solely because of outdoor dining. 

"Prior, with the curfews when the magic hour came, everyone got up and left," Butera said. "It was very surreal, nothing like that has ever happened in the restaurant industry."

And now that the outdoor dining curfew statewide has been lifted, he said it is a game-changer for owners and customers alike.

"People will then be able to have a drink at the bar while they are waiting for their table, not being rushed, not feeling they have to be out by a certain hour," Butera said. "They can have their dinner at a leisurely pace and that's really where the benefit will happen for us."

"Everywhere on Long Island you go to a show, you see people, you want to go out and grab a cup of coffee, a drink or whatever, and lifting that curfew up broadens the whole atmosphere for everybody," Dawn DiStefano, a Butera's customer, said.

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The NYC Hospitality Alliance welcomes the easing of restrictions but said it isn't enough. With less than two weeks left in Albany's legislative session, the alliance is calling on state lawmakers to enact three priority pieces of legislation to help the restaurant industry make a comeback.

The first is to grant temporary liquor licenses to new restaurants opening up in New York City. Secondly, restaurants want to continue to sell alcohol with to-go or delivery orders.

"During this pandemic, serving alcohol-to-go has become an incredibly important lifeline for local restaurants, NYC Hospitality Alliance Executive Director Andrew Rigie said. "The third policy is continuing the service of alcohol in outdoor dining areas. The only reason we are currently permitted to do so is due to an executive order."

Butera's and other restaurants across the state are also gearing up for May 31 when the indoor dining curfew for bars and restaurants is set to be lifted.