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Cuomo: Outdoor dining at restaurants permitted in phase two of reopening


Wed, Jun 3rd 2020 02:40 pm

Restaurants in 7 regions that have already entered phase two can reopen for outdoor dining beginning Thursday

Erie County eligible to resume elective surgeries & ambulatory care

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday announced outdoor dining at restaurants will be permitted in phase two of reopening. Restaurants in the seven regions that have already entered phase two – the Capital Region, Central New York, the Finger Lakes, the Mohawk Valley, the North Country, the Southern Tier and Western New York – can reopen for outdoor dining beginning Thursday. Outdoor tables must be spaced six feet apart, all staff must wear face coverings and customers must also wear face coverings when not seated.

"COVID-19 is still a real threat and we're still battling it. I know it's not on the front pages today, but it is still in people and in society," Cuomo said. "But thanks to the people of New York and the nurses, doctors and essential workers, today we have the lowest number of hospitalizations ever and we have the lowest death toll ever. We are continuously evaluating activities that can be safely reopened, and today we are adding outdoor seating at restaurants to phase two."

State Leaders Weigh In

In response to the restaurant news, New York State Sen. Rob Ortt and Niagara County Legislator Rich Andres urged local governments in Niagara County to help restaurants expand their footprints to be able to host additional patrons.

“Today’s announcement by Gov. Cuomo is welcome news, but many restaurants have limited outdoor seating or none at all, so we need to look for creative ways to help them be successful,” Ortt said. “That could mean allowing them to use their parking lots to set up tables, perhaps adjacent sidewalks and maybe even look at ways to close some streets down to traffic if that makes sense in areas with several restaurant in close proximity.”

Ortt and Andres said the ability to allow for an expanded footprint is a decision that rests with local governments, which would have to temporarily waive certain zoning ordinances.

“This is the time to cut through the red tape and help these local businesses that have been devastated over the last three months begin to get back on their feet,” said Andres, who chairs the county economic development committee. “The county Health Department has some oversight of restaurants, but I already checked with them and there is nothing under their purview that would prevent expanded outdoor dining options. So, now it’s a matter of zoning and permitting.”

Ortt said that, without localities joining the effort to help restaurants expand their capacity, many restaurants simply will not be able to reopen.

“As hopeful as today’s announcement is, restaurants need to be able to serve a certain number of customers in order for it to be economically feasible, and they are already well aware that, when indoor dining resumes in phase three, it will be with a much reduced capacity,” Ortt said. “So, relaxing zoning where appropriate is a step we must take if we want to save the local restaurant business in Niagara County.”

The Village of Lewiston already opened up its green spaces for restaurant patrons to sit and “picnic in the park.”

Image courtesy of the Office of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo

SLA Guidance – wear a mask, sit at a social distance

In response to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s decision to allow restaurants to offer outdoor seating in phase two, the New York State Liquor Authority posted the following:

•Effective Thursday, June 4, 2020

Pursuant to the Governor’s order, effective Thursday, June 4, 2020, all licensees in regions that have entered phase 2 of reopening and which have on-premises service privileges under the Alcoholic Beverage Control Law (ABC Law) may, subject to the guidance below, resume outdoor, on-premises service of alcoholic beverages and/or food. This guidance shall continue until July 3, 2020 but may be extended or reduced depending upon the circumstances. 

To aid in prevention of the spread of the coronavirus and assist businesses impacted by the current state of emergency, the Governor has ordered the Chairman of the State Liquor Authority (SLA) to promulgate guidance on a streamlined process for expansion of licensed premisses for service of alcoholic beverages.

The State Liquor Authority offers the following guidance:


  • Any consumption of food and/or beverage must happen in outdoor, open-air areas, without a fixed roof (besides a temporary or seasonal awning or cover).
  • Any consumption of food and/or beverage must happen while seated at a table, bar, counter, or similar contrivance.
  • All tables must be 6 feet apart; any seat at a bar, counter, or similar contrivance must be 6 feet apart.
  • All staff of the licensed business must wear face masks at all times.
  • All customers must wear face masks at any time they are not seated.
  • Any consumption shall be subject to all other relevant executive orders, guidances promulgated by the Department of Health, and/or any other relevant agency guidance.

Expansion of Premises:

•Section 99-d of the ABC Law, under normal conditions, governs the process for substantial alterations of a licensed premises. Pursuant to this guidance, however, a licensee may, for the duration that this guidance remains in effect, use any outdoor, open-air part of its existing premises for which it has control by deed, lease, management agreement, or other agreement of control. Provided however that if a licensee’s existing license is subject to a stipulation with a municipality or other entity limiting the use of certain parts of the premises, such licensee must submit a letter from the municipality or other entity with which it has stipulated approving such additional outdoor use of premises.

•Any licensee that expands its premises pursuant to the immediately foregoing paragraph shall within 5 business days of doing so submit an updated diagram to the SLA at [email protected]. Failure to do so shall subject a licensee to disciplinary charges for illegal extension of premises.

•Should any municipality elect to make available to licensees any municipally owned lands (e.g. sidewalks, streets, etc.) contiguous to the licensed premises for service of food and/or beverages (a “Municipal Extension”), and should such municipality want or expect the SLA to have jurisdiction over a licensee’s operations over such Municipal Extension, such municipality must submit to the SLA a plan for such municipal outdoor dining area on the following form and deliver to the SLA the written acceptance of responsibility for such Municipal Extension from each implicated licensee by also including the following form. Service that occurs in a municipal dining area for which a municipality has not submitted a form and licensee written acceptance shall be outside the jurisdiction of the SLA.

•Any movement of an existing point of sale while keeping the number of currently licensed points of sale the same must be noted in the diagram submitted pursuant to this guidance, the addition of a new point of sale in excess of the number of currently licensed points of sale shall require application to the SLA for and additional bar license.

A reminder: outside of this Guidance, the restrictions put in place by Executive Order 202.3 (as continued by subsequent executive orders) remain in effect; any licensed business found to be operating in violation of the Governor’s orders restricting on-premises service of alcoholic beverages, including the SLA Guidance with respect to take out and delivery service, shall face a monetary penalty (retail maximum of $10,000/manufacturer maximum of $100,000), and/or suspension, cancellation, or revocation of its license.

More from Cuomo

•Cuomo also announced Erie County is now eligible to resume elective surgeries and ambulatory care. The governor previously announced the state will allow elective outpatient treatments to resume in counties and hospitals without significant risk of COVID-19 surge in the near term, and a total of 52 counties can now resume elective surgeries (four counties do not have hospitals). 

•Finally, Cuomo confirmed 1,045 additional cases of novel coronavirus, bringing the statewide total to 374,085 confirmed cases.

See also >> SLA offers guidance for restaurants offering outdoor seating

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