Restaurant Grants, Sidewalk Licensing and much more…

Originally Published : September 30, 2020

In Through the Out Door

House Attempts An 11th hour, Two Trillion Dollar Lifeline To Save American Small Businesses:

McConnell burps up his Julep in response

All this chatter about HEROES and ACTS yet there has been no action completed nor heroes crowned. Our Dearly Elected tease and appease by nesting the 120 Billion Dollar Restaurants Act into the new, pared down Heroes Act (2 Trill down from 3 Trill) that the House may vote on this week.  Ok, that’s positive news right? It’s good to be recognized. Now, all it would take is for Mnooch and McConnell to engage with Speaker P., do a little dance, make a little love and get down to pushing it through in the next week before they all go home to slime their constituents on the campaign trail. 

Forgive my pessimism but we all know the drill from here.  Queen Bee and his drones will guffaw and snortle and hoo-ha over the price tag and will try to lower it and then we will see if he and Speaker P. can make a deal.  I would imagine that Mnooch, working on behalf of DT, would welcome good financial news about now to deflect from the tax return fiasco so maybe there is hope if he can get the stuffy side parts to stick out their triple chins for their master and make it so.

While the details of the Restaurant Act are not fully formed, it seems like restaurants would qualify for a grant equal to the difference between the restaurant’s gross sales of 2019 and 2020.  There will probably be a requirement to use a chunky percentage for payroll and the rest for rent and PPE and other expenses. So, if you were a 2 Million restaurant last year and your sales are 25% of that this year or 500K, you would be eligible for a grant of 1.5 Million. If it’s true and it works out like that, and they pass it and distribute it quickly, many bars and restaurants may have a chance to stick it out.  Without the help, well, bad news for everyone.

Also included in the new Heros Act are more stim checks of $1,200 so our customers have some bread for bread and more PPP for other small businesses and some money earmarked for the decimated live music venue industry.  C’mon Congress!!  Do your job and get this done for pete’s sake.

Oh, and here in NYC and just in time for indoor dining, there has been an uptick in Covid cases.  Just like the scientists predicted would happen in the Fall.  I suffered through the Cuomo Catskills Comedy Hour today and endured his Borscht Belt press conference just to see if he was going to threaten restaurants.  He didn’t directly but you can bet he’s going to have an itchy trigger finger should the testing rates rise further.  So, watch those positivity rates like you would the weather report and be prepared to close it down if ordered.

1932 update – Still waiting for the Judge’s decision on the emergency motion brought by Landlords.  In the meantime, De Mayor extended the 1932A protections until the end of March but we will need the courts to support the cause for it to have any real power.  

Lastly, but not leastly, we have been scouring the new indoor and outdoor dining rules and, while we may not always break the news, we do break it down and nobody does it better than Joey Regs and the HL Licensing Team.

Joey Regs says…

At this point, we have all now heard that our Mayor has decided to extend the “Open Restaurants” program.  We can all let out a collective little, “Woohoo” about that.  However, this story is far from over, this is not a workable ultimate solution, and some questions remain.  As we do, we’ll take a dive into what we know, what we don’t and what you should be thinking about below…

OK.  Let’s just review.  There are two programs of note here: Open Restaurants and Open Streets: .  Together, they allow NYC restaurateurs to set up tables and chairs on their respective sidewalks, curb lanes, and in expanded spaces on certain car-free streets citywide on certain dates.  These programs have been successful thus far, with over 10,000 establishments participating and 85 streets designated as “car-free.” 

And while the Mayor is taking credit for bringing restaurants back to life and savings jobs, let’s be super clear about something.  YOU all have made this a success; not him.  Did he ultimately approve the program? Sure.  But he didn’t cover the costs to build the structures; he didn’t provide any type of assistance in doing so, and it sure as hell wasn’t his immediate action and zealous advocacy for our industry that gave us a fighting chance.  It was mostly too little too late, but we’ll take it and hustle our way towards better days ahead.  Get us to at least 50% indoor dining, AND year-round outdoor seating (that we don’t have to pay additional for) and now we’re getting somewhere.

Adjacent Properties:  One of the big issues with the Open Restaurants program was that many operators found themselves excluded from it for one reason or another (i.e. a bus stop or other encumbrance directly in front of the establishment).  While the City tried their best to make accommodations for these unlucky operators [by working on a plan to allow them to extend into adjacent, unused spaces], it stalled for reasons out of their control.  It appears that the City has figured this out and will now allow for this.  Stay tuned for a NYC online template application, similar to the Open Restaurants version. 

This is BIG, but there’s an even bigger question looming.  The Good: The city will now allow operators to enter into “Adjacent Property Agreements” with property owners, for specific periods of time and commit to NOT charge any fee for the use.  And these will be widely accepted – don’t expect ticky tacky edit requests from the City.  The Unknown: While the City can unilaterally roll out this program and it will cover the physical outdoor seating and food service, they cannot do the same when it comes to alcohol service.  Therefore, we need State Liquor Authority sign-off on the program for you to have the ability to actually serve drinks with food on these adjacent properties.  Hopefully the State plays ball here, but this is where things stalled in earlier iterations of this program.  And it’s not the State Liquor Authority’s fault either – they were all for this.  Unfortunately, their hands were tied last minute by the guy with the exciting book tour coming up this Fall.  Let’s hope he does the right thing here.  Otherwise, what good are those extra seats?

Heating:  Outdoor seating extended through the Winter is great in theory, but in practice, we need to consider what it’s really going to be like seating people outside when it’s literally freezing out.   What good is having seats outside if it’s too cold for anyone to want to sit there?  NYC has always had fairly cumbersome rules for outdoor heating elements in traditional sidewalk cafes.  I’m happy to report that those are being modified and loosened significantly. 

The City is going to allow electrical heaters on the roadways and sidewalks, with propane heaters allowed on the sidewalks only.  There will be hoops to jump through here, and will include FDNY signoff.  We know that ultimately this forthcoming FDNY compliance will include secure overnight storage and handling of the tanks, and the issuance of a specific permit for your allowance.  You CANNOT introduce these heating elements until NYC has released their guidance on the same, and you comply with the stated regulations.  The City has promised that this guidance will be out by the end of September, so time is ticking here.  This will obviously be an essential part of your operation, so please pay close attention for any new info here.

Tents: Sticking with the theme of fostering an environment that diners actually want to be a part of here, let’s talk about tents and enclosures.  Heaters, as discussed above, by themselves, may not be enough to do the job of withstanding the elements here.  So you may want to consider something additional.  If you are using a “Partial tent enclosure,” at least 50% of the tent’s side wall surface area must remain open and you can utilize electric heaters in tandem.  If, however, you choose to go “Full enclosure,” where all side walls are closed, you will be capped at 25% capacity (just like indoor dining, beginning tomorrow) and you must comply with the rest of the indoor dining policies.  So, if I were you, I’d take the partial enclosures all day.

One more item to be aware of is potential future physical changes to the roadway structures.  As we get into Fall/Winter seasons and inclement weather becomes more and more likely, the City is preparing amendments to the prior roadway guidance to accommodate snow removal efforts, heightened chances that cars skid, etc.  What do these look like?  We’re not entirely sure yet, but I would bank on some physical reinforcements and/or modifications to the existing structures, as well as potentially some scheduled “non-seating” times based on weather.

We expect to see a ton of guidance drop in the coming days.  That, coupled with indoor dining at 25% set to kick off tomorrow, you might be hearing from us again sooner than you’d think.  Take care everyone, stay safe, and good luck tomorrow.

Joey Regs out.

As Jerry said ” Ship of fools on a cruel sea, ship of fools, sail away from me”.  I sure hope those fools in DC don’t capsize the ship and sink us for good.

Good night,