Photo: Giselle Medina. Located on 135 Alexander Avenue, Beatstro’s now closed, outdoor dining area is decorated with fairy lights and shows that there are divisions for social distancing.

Winter is here: Restaurants in the South Bronx prepare for the upcoming season 

At the peak of brunch hour on a Saturday, Mott Haven’s Alexander Avenue is strangely quiet. The streets are filled with outdoor dining establishments, but all are empty.   

That is until you go into the restaurants.

Restaurants like Beatstro were bustling and at full capacity.

On Nov. 26, the restaurant decided to close its addition because of the weather change.

Beatstro has sidewalk seating and on the weekends, they would close the street to expand their seating, according to Dahra Spivey, Beatstro’s restaurant manager.

“It actually doubled our real state when we added the outside,” said Spivey. “So, that did work out for us when the weather permitted it.”

Inside the speakeasy-like restaurant, approximately 40 people can be seated and with the addition of outdoor dining, Beatstro’s seating went up to 80.

With the way Beatstro’s outdoor dining is set up, it would be a hazard to have a heater to warm up the outdoor area, according to Spivey.

According to the Department of Transportation, the only heaters allowed are electric radiant heaters on both sidewalks and roadways, and natural gas radiant heaters on sidewalks. 

In June 2020, the department opened the Open Restaurant Application to help the restaurant industry by applying for sidewalk and roadway access. 

“Open Restaurants was an emergency program that has proved to be a silver lining of the pandemic, especially in places like the Bronx where outdoor dining was limited in the past,” said Seth Stein, a spokesperson for the Department of Transportation.

There are currently 650 restaurants in the Bronx participating in Open Restaurants, compared to the 30 restaurants with outdoor dining pre-COVID.

“I know it’s chilly now, but I still like it, I like it all year round,” Mott Haven resident Marissa Morales said. “It helps the small mom and pop shops.”

With it getting colder, Morales doesn’t mind eating outside.

“I’m fully vaccinated with the booster,” she said. “I usually try to find some place that is not too too crowded that can give me the option to go outside. If it’s cold, if they have the outside option to do heating.”

In the past year, New Yorkers have seen restaurants go through ups and downs during the pandemic with some establishments having to close and others expanding to the streets.

“It feels safer,” Brooklyn resident Wynsome Burke said. “It’s getting colder, and I think sometimes that’s a place for people to gather that’s warm, enclosed, and shields you from the weather especially here in New York.”

Applying for outdoor dining access allowed restaurants to have more than just take-out and delivery options.

After analyzing the Open Restaurant application, the Bronx was one of the boroughs with the least number of applications for sidewalk and roadway access or both. Area of Sidewalk
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