Buffalo Creates Plan to Add More Outdoor Seating

Restaurant owners must apply

Tom Puckett
May 27, 2020 - 4:00 am
Osteria 166

Buffalo, NY (WBEN) Mayor Byron Brown announced a way to help restaurants recover after being forced to only serve takeout or delivery since NY on Pause in mid-March. The plan is to allow restaurant owners to apply for additional outdoor seating.

During Phase Three of the State’s reopening plan, restaurants will be allowed to offer seated dining services again. The Small Business Social Distancing Initiative will offer those restaurants that want the use of additional outdoor space the opportunity to do this in a safer and more effective manner. "My Administration is committed to helping the restaurant community promote safe socially distanced seating while also ensuring that pedestrians, cyclists and motorists can also travel to and from their destinations efficiently. This will require a collaborative effort and having the input of business owners, associations, mobility experts and City departments will be critical to doing this in the safest and quickest way possible,” says Brown. 

Councilmember Joel Feroleto said, “Expanding outdoor seating options for restaurants is extremely important as we approach Phase Three of reopening. We must help this industry that has been hit hard from the pandemic. Many restaurant owners have expressed how challenging it will be to re-open at a reduced capacity. Expanded outdoor seating could help them and we plan on having the details worked out expeditiously so restaurants can hit the ground running when Phase Three opens.”

Nick Pitillo owner of Osteria 166 said, “As a restaurant owner I recognize the need for sound planning as we get ready for Phase Three reopening operations. We have a responsibility to do this carefully and safely for the sake of our guests and staff. Knowing we have a partner in the City that will help us do that quickly and effectively is the reassurance we need right now.”

Fred Daniel, owner of Freddy J’s on Grant Street said, “Restaurants need an easy and flexible process available now so we can start planning on how to safely implement open air seating in a way that protects our staff and the people we want to be welcoming back. I want to thank the City for acting now to set up a process so we can be ready on day one of the Phase Three reopening.”

Because outdoor space use plans will have an impact on surrounding businesses and neighborhoods, Brown says the application process will seek associations or business coalitions to be the lead applicant and responsible for implementing any outdoor space use plans whenever possible. Individual businesses may apply if they have secured the support of the neighboring businesses on their block and can demonstrate that its proposal will not have an adverse impact on these other business operations. The City will also encourage applicants to develop and utilize social media to advertise and promote their outdoor space use plans once they have been approved. This will be critical to ensuring that residents are aware of these changes and can adequately plan to take advantage of these changes.

There are three criteria for which all applications must adhere to:

• The outdoor space use plan protects the health of seated patrons and other members of the public from traffic through the use of appropriate space and adequate barriers and signage;
• The outdoor space use plan is managed in such a way as to ensure it does not draw excessive crowds to the location;
• The outdoor space use plan adheres to the City and State’s other applicable laws, rules and regulations that would normally govern restaurant operations.

Brown says the guidelines will help ensure the City is giving businesses a chance to develop plans that can help them recover some of the revenue they are losing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic while also ensuring they adhere to guidelines that do not create renewed public health concerns. Additionally, all applicants must demonstrate that they have complied with all of the requirements under New York State’s Reopening strategy. Their outdoor space use plan should also be reflected in any materials the State will require for reopening.

The City of Buffalo will consider three types of proposals for outdoor space use plans :

• The use of private property, such as restaurant owned parking lots, that are adjacent to the restaurant or business;
• The use of City sidewalks;
• Total street closures.

Each type of application will involve an increasingly deeper level of review and all must incorporate the criteria identified in the section above. Plans must also reflect principles of inclusivity and the diverse modes of transportation people in the City use. Applications must indicate how the 4’ wide Pedestrian Access Route will be maintained throughout the entire length of the plan. Applications must also ensure proper Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessibility throughout the entire length of the plan, which may require temporary ADA components as necessary. Any costs associated with the reopening plan and the protection of the public will be borne by the applicants , however the City will waive any application or license fees normally associated with these efforts from now until September 30th . Costs associated with the protection of the public may include the use of protective barriers in the street to protect pedestrians and cyclists if sidewalks are closed, police presence for street closures, or signage alerting the public to altered traffic patterns.

Rocco Termini says he and other restaurant owners are looking at how another city is doing this. "I've been working with Councilman Feroleto looking at the Cincinnati proposal. What they're doing is probably the most innovative program I've seen. It protects the people sitting, the cars passing and allows restaurants to expand capacity, so it's a win win for everyone,"says Termini.

Pitillo says Cincinnati has a comprehensive plan where it has 26 streets closed off to aid in the expansion of restaurants. "It's individual sistuations specific, so every place is different. You see spots on Hertel, Chippewa and Delaeare and some are convenient to open, and some are not. It's not as simple as let's open the streets. There needs to be safety, they're talking of using the parking lanes, but who's paying for the jersey barriers and the ability to get fire trucks in and out of locations," says Pitillo. 

Termini says one more entity needs to get involved. "We also have to have the state liquor authority to buy into this, and we haven't heard from the authority yet. They have to approve our ability to serve alcoholic beverages on property we don't lease," explains Termini.  


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