An out-of-control car plowed into the streetside outdoor dining area at a Brooklyn restaurant Thursday, video showed, and then immediately took off after injuring at least one customer.
The car turned onto Franklin Street in Greenpoint around lunchtime and came crashing into where tables and chairs were set up for outdoor dining at Cafe Alula, video shows. As the car barreled through the partition separating the area from the street, diners were sent running.
One woman was hurt in the incident, and was taken to the hospital but fortunately was not seriously injured. She was released a short time later with some bruising.
The person behind the wheel of the car wasn't around long enough to know if anyone had even been injured, however, as they sped off immediately after the crash, slowing down for only a moment. Police said they have not caught the driver as of Thursday night.
It becomes the latest accident involving expanded al fresco seating amid mounting calls from the restaurant industry to develop some timeline for dine-in in the city. Thursday's crash comes after a car slammed into an outdoor dining area on the Upper East Side Monday night, leaving diners with minor injuries and a driver taken to the hospital.
In Monday's crash, police say an Uber driver was near East 92nd Street and Second Avenue when another vehicle struck his car and sent it spinning into diners at DiLizia's outdoor seating are. The Uber driver says he wasn't injured but his car took major damage. Pieces of his vehicle were all over the street and sidewalk.
One of the drivers and two customers leaving the restaurant suffered minor injuries in the incident. It's unclear if any charges will be filed against the driver.
In July, an out-of-control truck plowed into the outdoor dining area of a Sunset Park restaurant sent three people to the hospital. A few weeks before that, a driver who fainted at the wheel crashed into the outdoor seating at a restaurant in Waldwick, New Jersey, but no one was injured in that incident.
Still, with thousands of outdoor dining areas throughout the city, there have been a limited number of incidents involving drivers thus far. The owner of DiLizia said that he will start using his car as an additional barrier to protect customers.
New York City set up rules for restaurants creating partitions for dining areas in city streets: The dividers must be at least three feet tall and 18 inches wide. Some eateries, like 70-year-old Donohue's Steakhouse on the Upper East Side, spent more and invested in industrial-sized partitions that weigh 650 pounds each — but the owner said it's worth the money.
"The only way to make a living being a mom-and-pop store is to go full blast outside. We built our platforms in two days, and started doing business," said Maureen Donohue-Peters, who runs the restaurant. "My theory was to be safe for my customers. My customers are the number one thing."
There is currently no timeline for the return of indoor dining, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said last week, though may have hinted at a possible return on Thursday. Mayor Bill de Blasio has repeated the same, saying evidence shows it poses heightened COVID exposure risk -- a threat the densely populated former epicenter of the national crisis cannot afford.
"We haven't been able to set a firm standard because we see a problem and challenge here," de Blasio said Tuesday when asked about a plan for indoor dining.
The restaurant industry has been pushing for at least some timeline in recent weeks. Restaurateur Danney Meyer was the latest to do so Tuesday, saying the outdoor initiative has opened up positive opportunities but it won't work forever.
"I’m also enjoying NYC’s sidewalk dining scene, but it’s important to recognize that most restaurants are primarily doing so to rehire their teams and to show a sense of civic pride," Meyer tweeted. "On its own, it’s not a sustainable business model and we’ll need to figure out indoor dining soon."