Sunday brunch is a New York institution, on par with teatime in England or tapas in Spain.
Yet New Yorkers hoping to eat eggs Benedict and sip mimosas outdoors sometimes find themselves stymied by an obscure city law that bans sidewalk cafes from operating before noon on the Christian day of rest.
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“People want to enjoy the outside seating and the beautiful day,” said Gino Kutluca, owner of Lokal, a Mediterranean bistro in Williamsburg that received a citation last year for violating the rule.
He is hopeful that the City Council will pass a bill permitting sidewalk cafes to operate on Sundays beginning at 10 a.m. The bill is expected to be voted on soon, possibly as early as this week.
“This rule, in my view, is outdated, it’s frequently ignored and it accomplishes very little except to restrict restaurants’ business,” Manhattan Councilman Dan Garodnick, the bill’s sponsor, said last month at a hearing.
He did not want to go any earlier than 10 a.m. “to allow residents some quiet on Sunday mornings before the prime brunching hours begin.”
Supporters of the bill include the New York State Restaurant Association, the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce and the New York City Hospitality Alliance.
“Simply put, New Yorkers and the more than 50 million tourists that visited our city last year would love to eat brunch on a sidewalk cafe before noon on Sundays,” Andrew Rigie, executive director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance, testified at the hearing.
But they can’t do so “because of an antiquated regulation, which makes people in 2013 scratch their heads,” he added.
Not everyone is onboard with the bill, however. Bob Gormley, district manager of Manhattan Community Board 2, said the City Council should consider linking the earlier opening time with a 10 p.m. closing time.
Meanwhile, members of Brooklyn Community Board 1 reportedly asked the city last year to crack down on sidewalk cafe violations. Soon after, Lokal and at least one other nearby restaurant received citations for setting up outdoor tables on Sunday before noon.
“You can’t run away from them,” Kutluca said. “They can shut down your place.”