New Regulation Shifts Outdoor Dining in NYC

After taking a critical hit during the COVID-19 pandemic, restaurants bounced back with the help of eased regulations around outdoor dining. New York City became a hub for makeshift patios on sidewalks and the street, embracing a Parisian café culture. This concept saved restaurants that were losing revenue by operating at half-capacity or less indoors. With the added tables, restaurants could continue to operate during the pandemic while still adhering to government regulations. Even as restrictions were lifted, outdoor dining has stuck around, giving businesses the ability to utilize space creatively and expand the footprint of limited NY real estate. Just as New York businesses began to thrive with the introduction of these spaces, a new law has is shaking things up.

During the pandemic, restaurants were granted temporary outdoor dining permits, but a new regulation, introduced by New York City Department of Transportation (NYC DOT) Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez, is giving restauranteurs 60 days to apply for their new permanent outdoor dining program. Owners must apply by August 3rd, or completely remove their setups by that time. Any business that applied for a permanent permit may keep its outdoor dining setup until they are approved. Ydanis Rodriguez mentioned how the city is trying to make the approval process as easy as possible and claims “New Yorkers enjoy outdoor dining and the vibrancy it brings to our communities, and that is why we are proud that Dining Out NYC has made outdoor dining a permanent part of our streets.” Despite this, the approval process can still take up to 6 months.

The stipulations for outdoor dining structures include things like mobility for being removed in the winter (November 30th-March 31st), distance guidelines for walkways, structures must be 15 feet from subway entrances for example. All structures must be routinely cleaned and secured while the business is closed. Sidewalk cafes are not permitted to have any additional flooring and roadway structures can have maintained flooring as long as it is easily transportable. For an extensive list of regulations visit City of NewYork

It’s not just iconic New York namesakes benefiting from this trend. Through the Dining Out NYC website, the city is offering programs for small businesses to complete their application. NYC Department of Small Business Services Commissioner Kevin D. Kim offers support to small businesses during this change through a hotline at 888 SBS-4NYC or the Dining Out NYC website.

Dining Out NYC offers services for all types of restaurants. Through the program, owners can apply for sidewalk or roadway-style dining, whether they participated in the temporary program or are a new restaurant seeking easy expansion. The entire process for a sidewalk café can take up to 6 months and 5 months for dining structures located in the street. Once the application is submitted, the restaurant will have 30 days to bring their setup to code as per the Dining Out NYC requirements. Failure to adhere to requirements can incur fines of up to $1000 for each offense. These guidelines include things like wheelchair accessibility and transportability for roadway structures so they can be removed during the winter months. The website also offers companies that can assist with the construction, moving, and storage of outdoor dining furniture and an FAQ section that answers topics like alcohol compliance, fees and rates, and what setups should look like. For more information, visit the official website of Dining out nyc

Want to capitalize on outdoor dining but not sure if your restaurant can afford expansion? Talk to a Paperchase hospitality accountant to review your finances and help make the best decision for your restaurant’s future. Paperchase can forecast potential revenue from outdoor dining to determine if structural investment is worth it or raise money through our operator fundraising programs so you can reimagine the use of public space for the betterment of your business.