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Op-Ed: Seasonal-Only Outdoor Dining Law Doesn’t Work for the Industry

A bar owner tells Mayor Adams that outdoor dining must be a year-round affair.

11:31 AM EDT on August 16, 2023

The Exley’s outdoor dining shed is popular even in the colder months. But it will have to come down in November 2024. Photo: The Exley

Bar owner Jim Morrison testified at Mayor Adams's public hearing on Wednesday morning about the City Council's permanent dining bill, Intro 31-C, passed by the lawmakers on Aug. 3, which will limit roadside dining structures to eight months of the year. Morrison is one of the owners of The Exley. His testimony focused on the bill's seasonal component.

Hello Mr. Mayor, thank you. I'd like to thank you for your hard work on this bill, it’s a very important one for our industry. 

But I rise today to tell you, there are a lot of great people that worked on this bill, hardworking people, but the truth is, our bars and restaurants can't make this bill work the way that it's formulated. 

Jim Morrison

We simply can't afford every six or eight months to tear down and rebuild these structures. That will cost us a lot of money, and eventually it will be a race to the bottom. 

The point of this bill was to eliminate the dilapidated, ugly sheds and what's going to end up happening is we're going to only get those because they're going to be the only ones that anyone can afford. 

I'm here today representing the working class people of my industry. It's an industry where a 25-year-old can land at Port Authority or an ex-political TV show host who's 50-years-old, can make a good living in this city.

And this bill is going to take maybe $100 a shift away from an average bartender. That could be the difference between making rent or putting food on the table. 

Today, I'm not the only one that's that's their voice, you're their voice today. You're our nightlife mayor and I know that you understand — probably the only mayor that's ever understood the complexities and how difficult this industry is. 

So today, I'm asking you to understand that perhaps there's a better way forward, maybe more robust fees than $1,000 for four years, because I know there are a lot of bars out there that would pay it. 

So a lot of people are saying this is the best compromise that we can do, but at the end of the day, I think the only people that are going to be compromised are the hard-working people in this industry. 

So come out, take a pause on this, don't sign it today. Come out and see our bar on a Sunday or a Saturday, heck, come out on in December or January and see the vibrant jobs that we've created, the vibrant communities, and the revenue that this has drawn for the city, not only in the summer, but also in the wintertime.

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