Hoping to survive the economic toll of the pandemic, nearly 11,000 restaurants are now part of New York City’s outdoor dining program — a program so wildly popular that Mayor Bill de Blasio made it permanent.
With that kind of success, the mayor turned his attention to another popular activity: shopping. In late October, he announced the Open Storefronts program, which allows retailers to use their sidewalk space to conduct business outdoors, in a manner similar to restaurants.
But so far, the program is a dud: As of Tuesday morning, only 563 businesses had applied. Mr. de Blasio has said 40,000 businesses are eligible to participate.
There was a lot going against it. Business owners said the program was complicated, costly and too little, too late. It was scheduled to end on Dec. 31; only 10 businesses in Staten Island had applied, and most applicants were located in Brooklyn and Manhattan. Some business owners said they were turned off by the rules, including space restrictions and a prohibition on heaters, a primary draw for outdoor dining as the weather grows colder. Others said they could not afford to pay employees to stand outside in the cold to watch over merchandise.
Several store owners said that unlike outdoor dining, the customer demand was not there.
“People have to eat, they have to socialize, but they don’t necessarily have to buy clothes,” said Liz Murphy, the owner of Slope Vintage in Park Slope, Brooklyn.