Monday, November 8, 2010

Pop-up cafes in NYC parking spaces

The New York Department of Transportation has expanded a pilot project that allows restaurants to create outdoor dining spaces in street spaces (often parking spaces) where the sidewalks are too small for tables and chairs. From the Wall Street Journal:
The city's Department of Transportation could approve as many as 12 so-called pop-up cafés to open next spring, following the success of its first one.

The two-year pilot program provides temporary seating platforms for restaurants not eligible for sidewalk cafés licensed by the Department of Consumer Affairs because of narrow sidewalks or zoning restrictions.

The owners of Fika Espresso Bar and Bombay's Restaurant, located near each other on Pearl Street in the Financial District, housed the city's first pop-up café, which went up in August and is expected to come down in the next two weeks.

The first curbside wooden platform, measuring 6 feet wide by 84 feet long provided space for about 50 chairs and 14 tables, and attracted throngs of lunch goers.

"My business went up by about 14%," estimated Prashant Bhatt, owner of Bombay's Restaurant. "If you come at lunch time there's no place to sit outside."

The business owners split the cost of the pop-up café, which they said was slightly more than $10,000 each.

Before the café opened, many people passing by couldn't even see his storefront, said Lars Akerlund, an owner of Fika Espresso Bar.

"The only thing this street has been used for is loading and unloading of big trucks so everybody just walked by across the street," he said.

"So we've benefited so much as a business….When people go outside they see this plaza with flowers and they can sit outside and have a nice cup of coffee. It's almost day and night," Mr. Akerlund said.

The commissioner of the Department of Transportation, Janette Sadik-Khan, said the pop-up café was a result of the "tremendous unmet need for quality public space in the city."

Cities in Europe and places in California also have erected such cafés.

"The pop-up café was an innovative way to take a look at solving the riddle of how to create a sidewalk café in a place where there just isn't enough sidewalk," she said.

She said the space was open to all passersby, not just patrons of the restaurants.

The DOT is accepting applications until Dec. 3. Restaurants in all five boroughs are eligible for pop-up cafés.

The number of sidewalk cafés in the city has been on the rise, reaching 1,126 in the last fiscal year, compared with 884 in fiscal year 2006, according to figures from the Department of Consumer Affairs.

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