By Julie Shapiro
FINANCIAL DISTRICT — Seasonal cafe tables will pop up in streets around the city next summer, replacing parking spaces with greenery and public seating.
The program is an expansion of a pilot pop-up cafe that debuted on Pearl Street in August.
The 14 tables and 50 chairs along Pearl Street, ringed in greenery, increased business at nearby restaurants and nearly doubled the number of people who lingered on the street during lunchtime, the Department of Transportation said.
"It did add a lot to the street life," said Ed Janoff, senior project manager for DOT.
Now, the DOT is soliciting applications from up to 12 additional businesses that want to see a pop-up cafe on their street. Any business on a street too narrow for a traditional sidewalk cafe can apply, but they have to be willing to pay about $10,000 for materials to build the cafe. The seating is not limited to paying customers.
The idea for the Pearl Street pop-up cafe came from the owners of Fika Espresso Bar and Bombay’s Indian restaurant, who were looking for ways to boost their business. Both restaurants said they were losing customers to the outdoor seating on nearby Stone Street, especially in the nice weather.
Once the cafe was installed, Fika and Bombay’s both saw an uptick of 10 to 15 percent in business, the owners said.
"For us, it’s almost been night and day," said Lars Akerlund, Fika’s owner, who collected more than 400 signatures in support of the cafe.
Local residents said the cafe transformed the street and was well worth the temporary loss of two parking spaces.
"It became a pleasant oasis," said Catherine McVay Hughes, a member of Community Board 1’s Financial District Committee.
The city will select the new pop-up cafe locations over the winter and plans to open them by May 1.
The Pearl Street cafe will be taken down for the winter as soon as next week, but it, too, will return next year.