Restaurants frustrated by confusing NYC outdoor dining rules

New York City’s "Open Restaurants" program saved thousands of jobs during the height of the COVID crisis. However, more than a year after Mayor Bill de Blasio launched the emergency initiative, confusion over the complicated rules and regulations hasn’t gone away.

Pachillo Colucci, owner of the Healthy Vibe Juice Bar in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, claims the city cleared his business for roadway seating. He even has the documentation to prove it.

"We applied for the license, the permit; the city approved the permit," Colucci told FOX 5 NY.

Colucci's outdoor dining setup sat right in the middle of a bus lane used by the B44, one of the busiest bus routes in the city. His restaurant was given just twenty-four hours to take down the structure and move it over to the sidewalk.

"It’s big, because we already spent thousands of thousands of dollars to build it. It’s not something I can take home," Colucci said.

When Colucci initially refused to move the structure, he received two additional violations and was slapped with $2,000 in fines.

Union officials like JP Patafio, TA Surface Vice President of the TWU Local 100, say it’s a situation quickly turning chaotic; especially combined with returning bus ridership.

"It becomes just an issue of safety and holding up the traffic. It becomes very frustrating and it just adds another element of stress and unsafe working conditions," he said.

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FOX 5 NY reached out to Mayor de Blasio's office for comment, who directed us to the Department of Transportation.

According to DOT guidelines, roadway seating is prohibited in a variety of locations; including bike lanes, taxi stands, bus stops, and bus lanes.

"The city and the Transit Authority need to really develop a plan so that these two can exist together, and that’s not happening," Patafio argues.

The New York City Hospitality Alliance says a game plan is underway to make the program more sustainable.

This comes as outdoor dining is slated to become permanent by 2023.