Earlier this month, New York City Mayor Eric Adams rolled out city-mandated guidelines and regulations for permanent outdoor dining, Dining Out NYC. The Adams bill gives restaurants clear design requirements they must adhere to for “clean, safe, and rat-free” outdoor dining. The move follows an announcement earlier this year from the Mayor and the Department of Transportation (DOT), which oversees the program, on the licensing aspect of the dining sheds.
The bill Mayor Adams signed on October 19 mandates ADA requirements and specific distances that must be adhered to from elements such as fire hydrants, cellar doors, and subway infrastructure. It also proposes guidelines saying pavilions need weighted barriers to protect diners from traffic; as well as rules on lighting systems, screening types, allowable flooring materials, connections to awnings and electrical systems, plantings; and how to allow for emergency vehicle access. The new guidelines encourage the use of transparent, less opaque dining pavilions with clear sight lines within.
“The temporary outdoor dining program was a lifeline for thousands of businesses and tens of thousands of jobs during one of the most challenging periods for our city,” said Jesse Lazar, executive director of AIA New York. “The permanent program builds on the success of the temporary program, while addressing many of the challenges that arose. We are particularly pleased to see a focus on equity and accessibility, as well as a commitment to design.”
Mayor Adams credits outdoor dining with saving over 100,000 service jobs during COVID-19. During the pandemic, outdoor dining was permitted exclusively on sidewalks, rules that changed over time. Dining Out NYC expands sidewalk dining to all five NYC boroughs year-round. It allows for roadway dining, i.e. restaurant booths on the street, for eight months a year between April and November.
Dining Out NYC is managed by the New York City Department of Transportation (NYCDOT). The New York City Department of Small Business Services (SBS) is responsible for engaging with local restaurants, business organizations, trade associations, and community groups to solicit feedback on the proposed rules.
“Today marks another step closer to the launch of the largest outdoor dining program in the country,” added Chief Public Realm Officer Ya-Ting Liu. “Through these proposed rules, DOT and its partner agencies are envisioning a program that works for restaurant owners, patrons, pedestrians, and road users alike. These rules seek to ensure that outdoor dining setups are beautiful, safe, clean, and available to restaurants in all five boroughs.“
Outdoor Dining NYC also creates a scalable, equitable fee collection structure for participating restaurants. Fees that restauranteurs owe to the city will depend on the location and size of their restaurant, and will have significantly lower fees than the previous sidewalk cafe program. Under the new program, a 100-square-foot sidewalk cafe in lower Manhattan would cost about half as much a year than it did during the pre-pandemic sidewalk cafe program.
In the coming months the rules will be finalized and restaurants can apply for a license to set up chairs and tables outside their establishments.
The first approved Dining Out NYC setups are slated to open on New York City streets in spring 2024.