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New York City Looks To Dig Out Before Deep Freeze; Mayor Gives Outdoor Dining Green Light

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- As the last of the snow fell Thursday in New York City, the dig-out was already well underway.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced outdoor dining can reopen as of 6 p.m.

As CBS2's Andrea Grymes reports, the big dig was underway outside Nino's AQ in Astoria. The sidewalks and entire outdoor dining area covered in snow.

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Owner Michael Vendome is not counting on many customers.

"At the end of the day, if its 25-30 degrees, by the time you get your food and everything, its still ice cold. So it's not even a fun experience. So I don't blame folks, I wouldn't dine out in that cold weather. It doesn't make sense," he said.

The storm aftermath is the latest challenge for an industry ravaged by COVID restrictions. While most outdoor dining structure stayed intact, others did not.

The weight of the snow brought down the expansive white tent that used to take up half the block outside Gracie Mews restaurant on the Upper East Side.

"Last night the weather was horrific," said Upper East Side resident Lesa Spatola. "This is terrible, just terrible."

WATCH: Mayor De Blasio Shares Latest Storm Update 

Mayor Bill de Blasio says this is the most snow in the city since January 2016. Grymes noticed most sidewalks cleared by midday, something property owners are required to do.

The Sanitation Department says it's looking for compliance, not to give out fines.

"We're very cognizant of the of the climate with regard to businesses that are struggling, people that are struggling," said Acting NYC Sanitation Commissioner Ed Grayson. "However, we need the sidewalks and rights of way for the pedestrians clear."

Back in Astoria last night, the owner of Trattoria L'Incontro poked fun with his few remaining staffers during the storm, with indoor dining banned.

"Let's bring some humor into this misery we're living in right now," said owner Rocco Sacramone.

Sacramone posted the video on Instagram, with #Florida and #dontaskfortaxes.

More: Restaurant Workers Enjoy Outdoor Dining In The Middle Of Powerful Winter Storm

Inside his empty restaurant Thursday, he told Grymes with the constant rollercoaster of restrictions, he's had to lay off most of his staff.

"Don't ask me what I'm going to do. I do not know. I live today, today, today," he said.

WATCH: CBS2's John Dias On Cleanup Efforts

The lack of commuters due to the pandemic made it easier for city plows to do their job Thursday morning.

"We have basically plowed every street in the city," Grayson said.

UPS driver Louis Delarosa said he was thankful for that.

"I'm just going to try to drive safely," he told CBS2.

New York City experienced the most snow since January 2016.

CBS2's John Dias saw some building supers clearing the sidewalks, many business owners were not.

"Probably a lot of them aren't around, because so many folded," said Hell's Kitchen resident Garret Corcoran.

Stores and restaurants across the city have been shutting down permanently due to the pandemic, leaving no one to clean up the snow in front.

"Look at right here, for example. It's all icy. That's not going to be shoveled. Why? Because there's no business there. So who's going to do that?" Hell's Kitchen resident Katherine Hedden said. "I still have to walk my dog, so I'm very fearful of falling."


Property owners could face a fine of up $350, but the mayor said he wouldn't come after businesses that rent.

"The property owner has to keep sidewalks clear, not the person who runs the restaurant," he said.

One worker at Lily's Craft and Kitchen in Hell's Kitchen wasn't waiting around for help, knowing outdoor dining is the restaurant's livelihood.

"I've got to clean all that," said Jonathan Garcia.

WATCH: Sanitation Commissioner Shares Update On Conditions 

"Outdoor dining structures did well structurally, for the most part from our frontline reviews, from what we saw. And our operators did well navigating around them," Grayson said.

One woman who lives nearby on Restaurant Row volunteered to shovel the eatery next to her building, not even knowing if they'll open.

LINK: Share Your Storm Photos And Videos On Our Facebook Page

"We're in a hard place right now, and I think if we can hold out a little bit longer, we can maybe all make it through," Robyn J. Dabis said.


John Dias contributed to this report. 

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