Op-ed | What outdoor dining means to me, a restaurant worker

Over my 15-year profession within the restaurant business, I’ve labored alongside many colleagues who need their small companies to anchor their communities and flourish with their neighborhoods.

As our incoming Mayor and Metropolis Council members decide what’s subsequent for our metropolis’s future, I hope they hear and pay attention to the voices of individuals like me who imagine supporting outdoor dining brings vitality and vibrancy to our metropolis. As ought to the Metropolis Planning Commissioners, who’re poised to vote on this vital program quickly, and whose choice can have a vital affect on my profession and the careers of so many others who depend upon the restaurant business to help themselves and their households.

When the COVID-19 pandemic ripped via New York Metropolis, I fearful the business that supplied my livelihood would quickly vanish, disconnecting me from my metropolis in additional methods than I might describe and even acknowledge, on the time. Our dining rooms had been compelled to shut, so many people had been let go, and our would-be company had been locked of their flats.

Luckily, outdoor dining gave the business and in some ways town – devastated by a terrifying public well being disaster – new life. After months of being socially distant from pals, neighbors, and colleagues, outdoor dining allowed New Yorkers a possibility to come collectively and supplied restaurant employees like myself a renewed sense of hope in our jobs and communities, however it has been a difficult and emotional journey.

The companies at which we labored hummed with exercise and we might, once more, depend on work and a paycheck. After all, these had been the fast tangibles of the scenario, however actually within the face of the extreme challenges, I imagine individuals had been additionally given a place to go the place they might really feel human once more.

Even within the darkest hours of the disaster or the coldest days of the 12 months, New Yorkers got here collectively, safely, and dined outside. Neighbors bundled up, introduced sleeping baggage, hand heaters, and blankets. They sat outdoors, ate soup, sipped sizzling toddies, joked, and laughed. On the times I used to be struggling to muster the emotional vitality to work in these situations, I discovered solace within the acquainted faces and tales from my group.

Restaurant professionals will usually say, “It’s just food and drinks, we aren’t saving the world.” We diminish the function we play in society, and, to a sure extent, it’s a reminder that what we do is small within the grand scheme of issues, however we do play an vital function in individuals’s lives.

And with outdoor dining to thank, we had been ready to proceed making a optimistic distinction within the lives of our patrons. What number of days have we improved by remembering somebody’s identify or their favourite drink? What number of celebrations – birthdays, anniversaries, graduations – had been higher as a result of we thought to write a message in chocolate on the rim of a plate? How many individuals fell in love at our bars as a result of we turned the lights down low, lit some candles, and performed their favourite music.

Whereas managing outdoor dining will be difficult at occasions and there are actually issues that want to be addressed, these are the optimistic reminiscences which have guided me all through the course of the very troublesome previous 20 months. With a sense of humility, I believe that the work I’m doing proper now could be very important to the individuals locally.

From a private {and professional} perspective, I actually imagine outdoor dining is accountable for sustaining our spirits, jobs, and revitalizing our metropolis streetscapes from desolation. As we work to rebuild a higher and extra sustainable restaurant business, I urge town to make outdoor dining a everlasting a part of its future.

Ted Freedman is a 15-year restaurant business veteran and supervisor of Fairfax restaurant in Greenwich Village.


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