Update, Sept. 25, 2020:After this column was published, Mayor Bill de Blasio held a news conference where he announced outdoor dining would be extended indefinitely and certain heat lamps would now be legal for restaurant use.
If you were to compile a history of outdoor dining in New York City (and really, is therethatmuch else to do?), you would begin with the arrival ofCastle Gardens, the country’s first open-air beer hall, in Lower Manhattan in 1824.
Shooting ahead a half-century would find Charles Feltman introducing the hot dog to Coney Island; Feltman, a German immigrant, was so successful wrapping sausages in buns for seaside consumption, that he soon built an empire on Surf Avenue with restaurants that set out tables on shaded back patios andunder open boardwalk arcades, something of an innovation.
Our timeline would land quickly enough at the unusual glory period of the present day. It is common to say that restaurants are essential to the city’s identity, but the pandemic has made it viscerally clear how much they remind us that we are among the living.