OpenTable calls on New York City Council to pass the permanent outdoor dining bill

OpenTable CEO Debby Soo is calling on NYC officials to make outdoor dining permanent in the city. Photo credit: Renata Tyburczy/Getty Images

**UPDATE: The New York City Council passed the bill on August 3, 2023**

OpenTable’s mission to help restaurants thrive isn’t just a tagline, it’s a promise. In support of the New York City restaurant community, our CEO, Debby Soo, wrote to the New York City Council and Speaker Adrienne Adams to back the permanent outdoor dining bill. More on what’s at stake for NYC restaurants via the letter below:

Dear City Council Speaker Adams and members of the New York City Council, 

On behalf of OpenTable and in support of the New York restaurant community, I am writing to express support for Int.31-C, the permanent outdoor dining bill to be voted on by the City Council this Thursday, August 3rd. Restaurants are central to the culture, community and economy of New York City, representing over 20,000 small businesses and more than 300,000 workers. This bill is a necessary measure to support the restaurant industry and the vitality of New York City as it continues to rebound from the pandemic and contend with the impacts of a challenging macroeconomic environment. 

The Open Restaurants program has aided the NYC restaurant community’s continued recovery. Since its 2020 launch, outdoor dining increased from approximately 1,000 establishments to over 12,000, including nearly doubling the share of establishments with outdoor dining in low-income neighborhoods.  

Three years later, outdoor dining remains critical to restaurants’ business. OpenTable data shows that demand for outdoor dining in New York City continues to grow: this spring and summer, outdoor dining increased 24% compared to 2022, whereas total dining was nearly flat*. Further, of restaurants that offer outdoor dining, it accounted for 15% of total dining**. Restaurants already operate on razor thin margins – they simply cannot afford to give up this new part of their business.    

This proposal represents a balanced approach that reflects a compromise among many stakeholders and is the best current plausible path forward. If enacted, Int.31-C will streamline the licensing process for restaurants, reduce fees, formalize the expansion of the program citywide, and make permanent a program for seasonal roadway dining which only first came into existence in 2020. Failure to enact this sensible measure risks the elimination of all outdoor dining, which could lead to job losses, restaurant closures, vacant storefronts and decreased tax revenue. 

Thank you for your leadership on this critical issue and your support for the restaurants and restaurant workers of New York City.

Debby Soo, CEO, OpenTable

OpenTable data methodology:

*Outdoor seated diners and total seated diners in New York City (from phone, online and walk-in reservations) from 4/1/2023 to 7/25/2023 compared to the same date range in 2022, looking at restaurants that were on the OpenTable platform in these periods in 2022 and 2023.

**Outdoor seated diners at New York City restaurants on the OpenTable platform which offer outdoor dining, compared to total dining at these restaurants (from phone, online and walk-in reservations) from 4/1/2023 to 7/25/2023.