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Morning Spew

Winter Ramen Is Meant to Be Eaten in a Heated Dining Shed

But not according to the City Council! And more news for your Monday.

(Hell Gate)

New York City's winter has vacillated between extremes this year, with muggy, mild fifty-degree weather trading places with deep dives into the teens and zeroes, a product of displaced cold air from the Arctic. Bodies of water that are apt to freeze in the winter don't love this pattern, and neither do snow lovers, who have been left with a piddling amount of snow (just enough to count to stop short of the all-time record for days without snow). For the past week, however, and apparently well into the future, New York's winter looks to have returned to normal—cold and depressing and endless. (Tonight, apparently, that also means actual snowfall.) It's a perfect time to pile into a restaurant or bar, hunker down, and stay warm. 

And New Yorkers, no longer weather-averse creatures thanks to COVID, have embraced the joys of eating outside during the winter. Outdoor dining has returned the wonder of our meteorological existence to many, who, availing themselves of a restaurant's added capacity, have found themselves drawn to curbside tables even as temperatures have dipped into the twenties and thirties. New Yorkers agree, in poll after poll, that outdoor dining is an extremely positive development. There's something both warm and bracing about eating ramen beneath the glow of the heat lamp, as a cold breeze sneaks through the slats of the dining shed.

And so, naturally, winter outdoor dining must die. 

Streetsblog reports that after a year of delays by the current City Council and several failed lawsuits, a bill regulating outdoor dining will finally head to a vote—and turn the program "seasonal." There's little way to interpret that decision other than as an attempt to massively downsize the program, and for many restaurants, end it entirely. For smaller restaurants, the costs of having and storing equipment that can only be used during some parts of the year, will not be a viable option. 

On top of that, Streetsblog reports, it's unclear whether the final program that comes up for a vote will allow restaurants to use parking spots for outdoor dining, clogging them onto narrow sidewalks. The Department of Transportation, which will run the permanent program under the new bill, has signaled that it's interested in allowing curbside to continue.

In 2021, New York City was all set to implement a year-round permanent outdoor dining program, but with the end of the de Blasio administration, that program was put on hold. 

The sad part of the move to "seasonality" for the program, of course, is that New York City, despite some errant cold snaps, is no longer really "seasonal." Today it could snow, but yesterday afternoon was sunny and warm and outdoor dining areas were packed. And more importantly, New Yorkers, hearty from the years spent on sidewalks enjoying airflow and the outdoor dining experience, are themselves no longer seasonal either. We're outdoor cats now, and we're not all that interested in going back. 

Some links to start your week: 

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