Permanent Outdoor Dining Law Agreement!
A compromise between the Mayor and City Council for the new permanent outdoor dining program has been reached and we are thrilled!
The NYC Hospitality Alliance always knew that the temporary emergency Open Restaurants outdoor dining program we helped secure for our industry in June of 2020 - during some of the darkest days of the pandemic - would eventually end. But we strongly believed that going back to the old expensive, lengthy, restrictive, and overly difficult sidewalk cafe law was not an option.
Now after two years of discussions and negotiations with the Mayor’s administration and the City Council, led by our attorney and sidewalk cafe expert Rob Bookman, a new outdoor dining program is coming.
Sidewalk Café and Roadway Streeteries Included!
When compared to the old sidewalk cafe law, the new permanent program, which allows for year-round sidewalk café dining, will include a faster, less expensive, and a less complicated licensing process for sidewalk cafes than existed previously.
The new law will also include seasonal roadway dining from April through November as part of the permanent transformation of our streets, something that before the pandemic was not even a dream. We strongly believe it is better to have eight months of roadway than no roadway dining at all, even if it’s not allowed during the winter. How this process is managed will be determined in the future by the Department of Transportation rule making process.
And outdoor dining will now be legally available to restaurants in all neighborhoods across the five boroughs, and no longer primarily concentrated south of 96th Street in Manhattan like it was before the pandemic.
Here are additional highlights of the agreed upon outdoor dining program, which still must be enacted by the Mayor and City Council before taking effect:
- The outdoor dining license fee will be $1,050 for a four-year license. Previously it was a similar amount, but the fee was paid every two-years. License renewals will also be every four- years.
- The consent fees will range from $6 per square foot to $18 per square foot in areas north of 125th Street in Manhattan and the other boroughs. Previously it was $30 per square foot. 80% of the city will pay the lowest $6 per square foot rate. The rest of Manhattan will pay $31 per square foot. Previously it was charged at $40 per square foot. So, a HUGE reduction in fees!
- The fees for the roadway dining will be proportionally less because it's permitted only eight months a year.
- Applications will no longer require plans to be prepared by a professional architect or engineer saving additional monies.
- The required approval by the Landmarks Preservation Commission in the old sidewalk cafe law has been restricted compared to their authority under the pre-pandemic sidewalk café law, both by shortening the amount of time they must sign off on applications and by clarifying their limited jurisdiction over outdoor dining applications as they generally have no impact on landmark buildings or neighborhoods. This will speed up the process for restaurants and reduce bureaucracy.
- Hours of operation will be 10:00 a.m. to midnight.
- First time violations will get an opportunity to cure with no fine.
- And very importantly, there will be a transition period where every business that currently has a permit under the emergency Open Restaurants program will continue to be able to operate until their application under the new law is acted upon by the city. (There will be a time by which the applications must be filed after the new law goes into effect. If a business doesn’t file an application by that deadline, they can no longer offer outdoor dining.) This is a huge win, so businesses don’t lose out on months of outdoor dining as they and the city transitions into the permanent program.
- There is also a lengthy transition period for the existing roadway dining structures operating under the emergency Open Restaurants program. Non-compliant structures must be removed by November 1st, 2024. However, many will be removed sooner when their application is acted upon if the structure does not comply with the new Department of Transportation rules which will be adopted in the future.
- There will be a variety of temporary outdoor dining permits available in the future. The first temporary permit will be issued to a new tenant if the premises had a licensed outdoor cafe within the prior two years, as long as it is essentially the same setup as the one previously licensed. The second temporary permit will be for new applicants who will not have to wait the full lengthy amount of time to receive a revocable consent and can get temporary permission to operate sooner while their application is pending.
- Future increases to the consent fees will require the Mayor’s administration to go back to the City Council for approval. They only have the right to solely increase consent fees for the limited enclosed sidewalk cafes that remain every four-years.
- IMPORTANT: While we believe sidewalk cafes will look like they did under the pre-pandemic program, it is IMPORTANT to note that we do not know yet what the design guidelines will be for roadway dining structures, however we know they will not allow fully enclosed structures like some restaurants currently have. We will work with the Department of Transportation on the development of the design guidelines, including requirements for four months that roadway dining will not be allowed.
We thank Mayor Adams and his team, Speaker Adams and her team, and Councilmember Marjorie Velazquez the prime sponsor of the legislation for working tirelessly to come to this historic agreement which will benefit our restaurants and teams, our neighborhoods, our visitors, and our great city. We also thank all our members and the advocates who helped inform and support this process, along with other supportive members of the City Council.
We’ll keep you informed as this process continues.