By Daniel Krieger
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, dining sheds have become a fixed feature of the cityscape since the pandemic washed over New York. And as one of Covid’s legacies, it looks like they’re here to stay, though the city is still discussing a permanent plan for them. Some are ornate, cozy and pretty, while others are functional, barebones affairs that some people may see as eyesores. Some extend from the restaurant onto the sidewalk, while others sit in the street, occupying the most competitive real estate in New York — parking spaces. For this inaugural edition of Asking Upper West Siders, WSR asked locals on a recent afternoon to weigh in on them.
What do you think about dining sheds?
Occupation: shiatsu practitioner
Time on the Upper West Side: over 15 years
“They’re horrible. I mean, aesthetically, I find them horrible. They have to go. Of course, they are good for the businesses, but they’re just ugly. And I don’t like sitting in them. Honestly, I prefer to sit inside or just at a table in front of the restaurant. And also they take up a lot of public space. The sheds served their purpose during the pandemic, but now they should go. In the winter they’re cold and uncomfortable, and they’re made without artistic inspiration. Like Cibo E Vino [at Broadway and 89th], it’s such a beautiful restaurant, it’s so romantic, and there’s this ugly thing in front. I think it’s just disturbing.”
Occupation: HR program manager
Time on the Upper West Side: 10 years
“My experience with them has been positive because they’ve expanded dining and the experience of enjoying the neighborhood outside the walls of a restaurant. And I think they add a lot of interest and creativity as well in the different ways that the owners have designed them. I also think that it’s a good option for those who are still Covid cautious. We don’t know which way that’s going to go, so it’s nice to know that there is an outdoor dining option that isn’t limited to the summer. It’s also nice if the restaurant is kind of small and loud and crowded. I do prefer the open air, and sometimes it’s easier to have a conversation outside. And also I like how it’s more of a European style, where the cafes extend into the street and are part of the city. There’s a charm to it. As you’re walking, you can see the life and vibe of the neighborhood. And you can see what looks good. It’s interesting to see the places that always have a crowd, and it piques your curiosity to see what makes them so popular.”
Occupation: bilingual elementary school teacher
Time on the Upper West Side: 7 years
“My husband and I enjoy dining sheds. It gives us the opportunity to be outside, and we can take the dog. It’s great for anytime when there’s nice weather out. And for a lot of restaurants that we love, they doubled and tripled their seating because of the outdoor space. So we’re happy for them. We’ve seen restaurants that would’ve otherwise really struggled. Also, we don’t have a car and we live on a residential block. If I was looking for parking or if there were a dining shed right below my apartment, my opinion might be different. But as someone who isn’t looking for parking and is just surrounded by my neighbors, those negatives of the dining sheds don’t affect me personally. Some of them are beautiful, too.”
Occupation: adult education teacher
Time on the Upper West Side: 45 years
“Well, I think their time has passed. The city seems to be sort of recovering and people don’t seem to be afraid to go into restaurants now so it seems like normalcy should resume. I used to manage a restaurant a long time ago, and we had to pay a lot of money for an extension. It seems it should go back to that. They’re taking up public space for private profit. I personally have no interest in sitting on Broadway and eating a meal in a shed. Does not seem very appealing to me. The sheds should go!”
Time on the Upper West Side: 40 years
“I wouldn’t call it a shed exactly, but I like them. They’re good. Good in the summer, good in the winter. I sit here outside all year. In the winter, they cover the openings with plastic and they have heat. Keeps out the bad weather. And before there just used to be a sidewalk with tables on it, but now this gives a boundary between the bar and the sidewalk. Of course, I don’t have a car so I don’t have to worry about it taking up all that space on the street. It’s more interesting to sit out here and see the people walking by. It’s fun. I’ve always done it. All these years. If the city took them away, though, I’d still come out here.”
What do you think about dining sheds? And what issues would you like to see discussed in future editions of Asking Upper West Siders?