By Jill Colvin
MIDTOWN — The first temporary café looks set to pop-up in Midtown.
A committee of Community Board 5 voted unanimously Thursday to approve an application by managers of O’Casey’s to build a pop-up café outside their pub at 22 E. 41st St.
The full board will weigh in next week.
The café program, which was launched last year by the Department of Transportation, turns parking spaces into small summer seating areas along stretches where sidewalk cafes are not allowed. The pop-ups are paid for and managed by restaurants, but there is no food service and, like other public plazas, they are open to anyone to stop by and sit.
The new café would be three parking spaces wide and open from mid-May to mid-October for the next two years, Jeffrey Malamy, director of special projects at the DOT, said.
But board members made clear that approving a single pop-up in a particular spot should not be read as a sign that the board is open to an influx.
Renee Cafaro said she’s not a big fan of the cafes, especially in Midtown where there’s already so much going on, but that this was a unique stretch where the idea would work well.
"This block is the perfect block for this," agreed board member Ron Dwenger, who pointed to the fact that the street dead-ends on both sides thanks to Park Avenue restaurant Pershing Square and the main public library branch on Fifth Avenue.
He also agreed he didn't want to set a precedent for putting tables in parking spots.
"I can see street patterns are getting tougher and tougher," he said.
But not everyone was happy about the pop-up plan.
Board member Michael Keane argued the cafes deny businesses and residents the right to use parking spots on public streets and warned a proliferation of cafes would have "serious impacts" on the neighborhood.
"You’re essentially usurping the department of planning and zoning regulations," which have deemed the stretch inappropriate for sidewalk cafes, he said.
Malamy tried to assure the group that the plan wasn’t to create "pop-up café corridors." He agreed there are not many places in Midtown where the concept would work and noted that only one of four applications for the cafes had been deemed appropriate by the agency.
But O'Casey's Paul Hurley, who has owned the restaurant for 20 years, said he was thrilled to be the one picked.
He said he loved the idea as soon as he heard it and thinks the $10,000 cost for construction will be well worth it because it will help let people know that the "hidden restaurant" is there.
"It’s fantastic… I think it’s a great concept for that location," he said.
The application will now go before the full board at its next meeting on Thursday April 14 at 6 p.m. at St. Xavier High School at 30 W. 16th St.