Service of When Outdoors is Really Indoors: NYC Restaurants Fooling Themselves

November 30th, 2020

Categories: Pandemic, Restaurant, Safety

These bubbles, steps from the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, are fully closed.

Some adults remind me of the young child who denies eating chocolate with evidence smeared all over her face and fingers. Who are they fooling?

I predict these structural interpretations by restaurant owners of the pandemic rules that permit outdoor dining in NYC will soon need to be modified either because covid-cautious customers won’t come or inspectors will shut them down.

The fourth side of this tent, which opens to the restaurant, is wide open.

There are plenty of outdoor restaurant additions closed on three sides and open on the fourth. The photo at left shows two of three closed plastic walls. The fourth side that opens to the restaurant’s front door, is wide open. However I’m not sure about the fire safety implications of plastic enclosures combined with heating elements.

I took the photos of some of the most blatant examples within walking distance of my apartment.

Would you eat at an outdoor space during the pandemic that is more closed in than not? Have you seen examples of outdoor restaurants that you’d be comfortable visiting health and heat wise this winter? Do you think restaurants will maintain their outdoor spaces long after we’ve controlled the pandemic?


Bryant Park Grill


19 Responses to “Service of When Outdoors is Really Indoors: NYC Restaurants Fooling Themselves”

  1. Phyllis Stier Said:

    Phyllis on Facebook: I think it’s very unsafe…I’d rather be inside than in a plastic bubble.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Me too! Even without a pandemic not sure I’d be happy cooped up in such a plastic surround with a bunch of friends.

  3. David Reich Said:

    We’ve been very careful when we go out to be sure the space is open to outside air.
    We’ve passed up several places because we weren’t comfortable about the safety. We wouldn’t patronize any of the places pictured here….too risky

  4. Hank Goldman Said:

    It’s become a really crazy world… As a doctor friend of mine says, adaptability is the key now, to staying sane.

    Hard to know what’s right. If you go with just a loved one and sit in those booths it may be OK? Or have several people go in… Definitely taking a chance.

  5. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I’ll be curious to see what changes they make or if they are forced to remove their temporary structures by the city. Yesterday I walked by the Bryant Park Grill. The outside tables were full. There were dramatic heating elements shooting flames several feet high placed here and there but I suspect their impact is much like that of a fireplace in a cold room–not much comfort a few feet away. There were three tables with people sitting inside the plastic enclosed structure I photographed above.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Is it worth taking a chance? How spoiled are we? Will some of us ever learn not to have to receive gratification ten seconds after we have a yen to do something?

    A friend posted a horrendous story on Facebook about a 23 year old who was in tip top shape and after he contracted and recovered from Covid had a stroke because of the virus. This is nothing to fool around about.

  7. ASK Said:

    Covid-cautious customers should stay home….

  8. Anonymous Said:

    No restaurants for me until it’s warm outside. There’s still no guarantees, but one can increase odds of survival at little to no emotional cost.

    Just heard that Australia and New Zealand have rid themselves of the virus because of a long period of lockdowns. If there’s any truth to this, perhaps the entire planet should follow suit. There will be consequences, but they beat suffering and death.

  9. Jeanne Byington Said:


    We can hardly get millions of people in this country to wear masks and social distance. Would they stand for a lockdown? Could it be enforced? As long as there are people like the 400 caught at a party in the west 40s in Manhattan over the weekend and 7,000 in Brooklyn at a wedding, we’re doomed.

    However, if there were funds to support the small businesses that are hanging by a thread a lockdown might be the only thing that works.

  10. Joan Cear Said:

    Joan on Facebook: I think dining outside in an enclosure is no better than dining inside a restaurant. Not safe. I am sorry restaurants are struggling, but this is not a safe practice.

  11. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I suspect the most blatant will have short lives. This isn’t the time for playing games with health.

  12. Cathy Carlozzi Said:

    Cathy on Facebook: I think in NM the edicts are that two sides have to be open and it can’t be just the shortest sides.

  13. Jeanne Byington Said:



  14. MarthaTakayama Said:

    I absolutely have no desire to eat at any restaurants indoors, outdoors or surrounded by a plastic bubble during the pandemic. The whole idea of circumventing close contact is negated by all three.

    I marvel about what people squeezed shoulder to shoulder at narrow outdoor tables of 4, 8 or ten can be thinking about as they talk,laugh, munch and spread germs in their midst. Bubbles are probably a less well ventilated version of indoor eating. At some point we have to realize that the pandemic is all-pervasive and does require limited social activity, unpleasant as that may be, to stop it from spreading further. As for the economic concerns, I don’t think the very infirm and I do know with certainty that dead people do not spend a lot of money on restaurants or many other non-medical items. Acceptance of social distancing might just be worth trying.

  15. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Brilliant comment! Those crippled after contracting the virus or worse, dead, won’t be around to visit or take out food from restaurants in future. Your surprise conclusion made me laugh!

  16. Richard Bendix Said:

    Richard of Facebook: Outdoor means open sides at the very least. We have the same issue in Seattle.

  17. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Almost childish interpretations of outdoor space

  18. Tom Stier Said:

    Tom on Facebook: I don’t see the sense of eating in such an outdoor enclosure. I think restaurants will continue to seek ways to maximize exterior space but will hopefully do it sensibly.

  19. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Common sense is in short supply these days.

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