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Outdoor Dining in NYC Poses Safety Risk to Patrons

New York City restaurants have pivoted their dining room setups to comply with the city’s Open Restaurants program. The coronavirus pandemic has hit restaurants especially hard, but the city introduced the Open Restaurants initiative to help eateries get their revenues back on track. The guidelines allow restaurants to set up socially distanced tables outside – even on sidewalks and in the streets. While this has allowed restaurant owners to serve more customers safely in regard to the virus, it has presented a new and potentially deadly dilemma.

By seating guests on roadways and sidewalks, restaurant owners put them at a greater risk of getting hit by errant drivers, especially when the roads are narrow. Despite the city’s mandate to construct blockades between the roadway and the tables, there have already been four accidents in which a vehicle drove into dining tables since the government allowed outdoor seating in June.

According to NYC.gov, the barriers between the seating area in the roadway and the lanes must be 18 inches wide and no more than 36 inches tall. However, they do not require the barricades to be a certain weight or made of a specified material. Because of this lack of specification, restaurants are constructing barricades made from weaker materials, such as plywood or decorative planters.

The New York Post reported that a pickup truck slammed into the outdoor seating area of the cocktail bar, L’Wren, located on Fifth Avenue in Sunset Park, on July 21. The restaurant owner, Travis Klaus, said no one was seriously injured, but that the accident likely scared away some of his regular customers. Police reported that the 22-year-old driver of the pickup truck did not have a driver’s license and attempted to flee the scene. A L’Wren customer chased him down and stayed with him until the police arrived.

About 6,000 restaurants spread across the five boroughs are operating with outdoor seating in a roadway, according to the New York Post. The city has been carrying out inspections to ensure the safety of these dining areas and the compliance of their Open Restaurant guidelines. However, these accidents continue to happen, even when the barricades are deemed compliant, such as at L’Wren.

Contact a New York Car Accident and Injury Lawyer

If you were hit by a car while dining outside, either on a sidewalk or in a roadway, call the attorneys at Hach & Rose, LLP. You may be facing expensive medical bills, as well as dealing with pain and suffering, and we want to help you secure the compensation you deserve.

Call our office at (212) 779-0057 to get in touch with a member of our team today. We offer free consultations so that you can learn about your legal options.


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