Nick’s Bistro Fights to Community Rallies to Preserve Outdoor Dining Oasis Amidst City Mandate


Customers and community members rally behind Nick’s Bistro, signing petitions and voicing support to preserve its outdoor dining structure, emphasizing its significance as a beloved community hub and dining destination. Credit: Mohamed Farghaly.

In a move set to reshape the city’s culinary landscape, new seasonal regulations pose a dire threat to the flourishing al fresco dining scene, leaving restaurateurs and patrons alike reeling. Passed by the City Council in August, the legislation allows for year-round sidewalk seating but deals a heavy blow to curbside dining, limiting its availability to April through November. For many restaurant owners, this restriction proves economically unviable, as the costly dismantling and reconstruction of outdoor structures each year loom as insurmountable challenges.

For many restaurant owners, like Tom Avallone, managing partner of Nick’s Bistro located at 104-20 Metropolitan Ave, Forest Hills, this mandate signals a dire threat to their financial viability. 

New seasonal regulations threaten NYC’s al fresco dining, impacting businesses like Nick’s Bistro and its patrons, prompting concerns over economic viability and community loss. Credit: Mohamed Farghaly.

Inside Nick’s Bistro, a simple wooden plaque proudly declares, “Meals and Memories Made Here,” a sentiment that resonates deeply with patrons who have come to regard the restaurant as an extension of their own homes. Within its walls, families celebrate birthdays, host gatherings, and mark special occasions, forming bonds that transcend mere dining experiences. 

Avallone extends a warm welcome to every guest, often knowing them by name and treating them like cherished members of the community. Beyond being a mere eatery, Nick’s Bistro, with its outdoor dining area, has become a cornerstone of the neighborhood, fostering a sense of belonging and camaraderie. The potential loss of this vital component could have far-reaching consequences for local businesses like Nick’s, threatening not just their bottom line but the very fabric of community life.

Tom Avallone, managing partner, voices financial challenges and emotional ties to the restaurant, highlighting its role as a cherished community hub. Credit: Mohamed Farghaly.

“I don’t have an unlimited bank account where I can destroy something of this magnitude and throw it all away, and then build something back up and do it every year,” Avallone said. “People come here because of the quality of our food, that consistency, the value of our dollar and it’s been 14 years of us being here because of what we do for the community.” 

Avallone and his staff poured heart and soul into creating an outdoor dining oasis, a sanctuary where people could safely dine amidst uncertain times. With a hefty investment exceeding $165,000, Nick’s outdoor structure boasted hardwood floors, electricity, and even heaters to combat the winter chill. It was more than just a dining area; it was a lifeline for both patrons and employees alike.

“Come November, they want me to take it down and I’m able to put it back up again in April. But to remove a structure of this massive amount with the security features that we put in, the cameras that we have here as well – the structure was not put together with wing nuts and bolts, it was not put together like a Lego set, it was built with the integrity to withstand the test of time and to be in addition to our restaurant,” Avallone said. “By removing it, everything from the lights to the cameras and the living plants in the structure will all get thrown in the garbage.”

The proposed seasonal regulations, mandating the removal of outdoor dining structures in November, come as a devastating blow to both the business and its workforce, many of whom will face unemployment just before the holiday season. Constructed with city approval during the COVID-19 pandemic at a cost exceeding $165,000, these structures will be dismantled and discarded, along with living plants, only to be reconstructed come April. 

The recent announcement of seasonal regulations threatens to upend everything Nick’s Bistro has worked so hard to build. The city’s directive mandates the removal of outdoor dining structures from November through April, a move that could devastate the restaurant’s financial stability and disrupt the lives of its staff. For Avallone, it’s not just about the dollars and cents; it’s about the community they’ve nurtured and the employees who rely on Nick’s Bistro for their livelihoods.

“The whole idea is by losing the outdoor dining area come November, I’ll lose 50% of my staff automatically, because I’ll go from a 100 seat restaurant to a 40 seat restaurant.” Avallone said. “I will no longer be able to employ them and I’m going to have to raise my prices.”  

The Bistro’s outdoor dining area was placed on a non-revenue producing street, it exists harmoniously within the fabric of Forest Hills, its presence neither impeding nor disrupting the flow of everyday life. Unlike many city establishments, Nick’s does not burden its neighbors with parking woes or obstruct the rhythm of street cleaning routines. Its strategic location on a side street of 72nd Avenue ensures minimal impact on traffic patterns, allowing pedestrians and vehicles to navigate effortlessly. 

“To take the structure down during that wintertime between November and April when most people are scared about the effects of what COVID or the flu may bring makes absolutely no sense,” Avallone emphasized the impracticality of dismantling the structure during the colder months.

Avallone highlights the numerous benefits of their outdoor setup, including safety features, amenities for patrons’ comfort, and contributions to both the local economy and customer experience. From the living plants to the sliding windows for optimal airflow, every aspect was designed with patron comfort and safety in mind. Unlike some hastily erected structures, Nick’s was built to last, withstanding the test of time and weathering even the fiercest storms. 

Many patrons enjoy the option of outdoor dining at restaurant’s like Nick’s Bistro. Credit: Mohamed Farghaly.

Customer Marsha Woodfin emphasizes the importance of preserving structures like Nick’s Bistro’s outdoor dining area for the community, highlighting the joy and enhancement it brings to their dining experience and neighborhood ambiance.

“It just makes us all so happy, it’s such a pleasurable experience to come here. It’s added so much to the neighborhood,” Woodfin said. “They put in so much effort to make a beautiful space that’s comfortable. And we know it’s good for their business and it’s just added so much. We love sitting outside in the beautiful weather. A couple of years ago, you couldn’t do that. Nick’s did such a beautiful job with the structure making it so decorative, it’s not like some of the outdoor sheds that others have that are unsightly.”

Despite Avallone’s pleas for understanding, the city remains steadfast in its stance, citing concerns over uniformity and safety. While acknowledging the need for regulation, Avallone argues that Nick’s should not be lumped together with establishments that cut corners or neglected their outdoor setups. 

“Why does the city want to take them down? Because people that put barriers up during COVID did not maintain them,” Avallone said. “They’re not built with the integrity that we did. They are rat infested. They’re built shabbily. They are shaky structures. And yes, those should be taken down. But you can’t put me into the same barrel as everybody else. I want somebody with integrity and somebody who’s got their finger on the pulse of reaction and has the power to say no, we would be doing an injustice to businesses like Nick’s Bistro.” 

With nearly 800 signatures on a petition to save their beloved structure, Nick’s Bistro represents a broader struggle facing restaurants across the city. It’s a battle for survival in an ever-changing landscape, where the fate of businesses hangs in the balance between public health and economic recovery. Avallone emphasizes the unique circumstances of each establishment and pleads for a more nuanced approach to regulation.

“I’ve got a petition that we started that says let me stand, I’ve got close to 800 signatures already from customers that have come in and they’ve given me everything from their name, their address, their email address, their telephone number, and they’ve signed it.” He emphasized the integral role Nick’s Bistro plays in the local neighborhood, stating, “We’ve been around for 14 years, during the pandemic, we did a lot of donations during the time that people were suffering we did the most that we possibly could do to remain open and to take care of our community.”

Christina Chesleigh, a long-time patron of Nick’s Bistro and resident of the neighborhood, emphasizes the significance of the outdoor dining expansion in enhancing her family dining experience.

“I’ve been coming here since it was a tiny little shop used to sell cold cuts and the moment he was able to branch out, and especially into the street, I could bring my grandkids and my family,” Chesleigh said. “The outdoor dining just made the experience so much better. I’ve signed the petition because I don’t want to see Nick’s Bistro change. I even have a favorite table in the corner of the dining shed.” 

If the current ruling remains unchanged, Nick’s Bistro won’t be the sole establishment facing adverse consequences; numerous businesses relying on similar outdoor dining structures will also be significantly impacted.  As the deadline for removal looms, Avallone and his team remain undeterred, fighting tooth and nail to preserve what they’ve built. For them, it’s not just about a dining structure; it’s about preserving a legacy and safeguarding the future of their restaurant and community.

Share Today

Stay Connected

Latest News

Our Newsletter

    Fill the Form for Events, Advertisement or Business Listing