By Julie Shapiro
FINANCIAL DISTRICT - The first pop-up sidewalk cafe in New York City arrived on Pearl Street last week, replacing a row of parked cars with public seating surrounded by planters.
Perched on a wooden patio between Broad Street and Coenties Slip, the bright red tables and chairs are already attracting lunchtime crowds and benefitting the nearby restaurants.
"If you build it, they will sit," Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan said with a smile at Thursday morning's ribbon cutting of the temporary cafe. "Even before it was done, people were out here using the seats."
The idea for the pop-up cafe came from the owners of Fika Espresso Bar and Bombay’s Indian restaurant, who were frustrated that Pearl Street is too narrow for a traditional sidewalk cafe.
The restaurants split the $15,000 cost of the platform, equipment and planters, money they hope to make back in increased business.
So far, Sonal Bhatt, 41, co-owner of Bombay's, said her sales have increased by at least 10 percent.
The restaurants do not offer table service at the 84-foot-by-6-foot cafe, and the 50 seats are open to everyone.
The cafe will stay in place until late fall, when the curb will revert to parking spaces for the winter. If the experiment is successful, Sadik-Khan said similar cafes could pop up in other locations.
David Byrne, the Talking Heads frontman and a friend of Sadik-Khan, stopped by Thursday's ribbon cutting and said he liked the idea.
"When can I get one in my neighborhood?" the Midtown resident asked.
The pop-up model is becoming the Department of Transportation’s signature.
"We’ve got pop-up pools," Sadik-Khan said, referring to the popular Summer Streets models. "Now we've got pop-up cafes. Who knows what we're going to pop up next."