BUFFALO, N.Y. — With no end in sight to the COVID-19 pandemic and WNY's weather turning colder, the City of Buffalo is stepping up to help local restaurants and other eating establishments extend their outdoor dining season.
But as 2 On Your Side reported yesterday there was some concern that the city might now allow the use of propane heaters for outdoor areas under the state fire code. Some restaurant owners were seeking clarification.
Now Mayor Byron Brown and Councilmember Joel Feroleto have announced that restaurants can use portable propane heaters on sidewalks, patios and parking lots, as long as the area is not enclosed. A permit is required to use them and can be obtained from the city's Office of Fire Prevention by calling 851-5333 ext. 750.
“We continue to offer whatever support we can to help our local small businesses as we continue to get through the COVID-19 pandemic together," said Mayor Brown. "We will maintain outdoor dining as a safe option for people as the temperatures become cooler. Enabling restaurants to utilize outdoor propane heaters will help ensure their survival. I encourage residents to continue to support small businesses, which are the lifeblood of our community.”
This latest effort is part of the city's Small Business Social Distancing Initiative, which includes the Chippewa Open Streets Program that was launched in July.
Delaware District Council Member Joel Feroleto added, “The restaurant industry has been one of the hardest hit by COVID-19. We need to support our local restaurants now more than ever. Permitting outdoor heaters will give restaurants the ability to accommodate more guests and a better chance of surviving the pandemic."
Feroleto told us yesterday that it's estimated that up to 50,000 people were employed in the restaurant industry in Erie County before the COVID-19 outbreak. He pointed out that there are many other people affected as they supply food and other items to restaurants.
The National Restaurant Association says nearly 100,000 U.S. restaurants have shut their doors since the pandemic began. Employment rose in the last four months, but there are still 2.5 million fewer restaurant workers than there were in February.