Open Restaurants

Permanent Open Restaurants Program

Due to the success of the emergency Open Restaurants Program during COVID-19, New York City is working to create a permanent Open Restaurants program. This program will be managed by NYC DOT and allow restaurants to use the sidewalk adjacent and curbside roadway space in front of their businesses for outdoor dining. In order to make this program permanent, the laws that control outdoor dining in non-emergency situations must be changed. NYC Permanent Open Restaurants Program Brochure (pdf)

Vision for Permanent Program

  • NYC DOT will administer both the sidewalk and roadway café programs through a streamlined application process
  • Allow for outdoor dining on the sidewalk and in the curbside roadway space
  • Available citywide
  • Detailed, upfront design guidance based on the design guidelines outreach process
  • Both sidewalk and roadway seating require license agreement
  • Full NYC DOT enforcement unit to enforce roadway structures, ADA Compliance, clear path, and amplified noise devices
  • Continued coordination with other city agencies on enforcement and rules

Timeline

There are many legal changes required to making this program permanent.

Estimated Timeframe
Milestones
Fall 2021 to Fall 2022
Legal Actions Take Place (i.e. amendment to zoning text, changes to local law, rulemaking, design, and application details)
Winter 2022
Permanent Program Application Opens
2023
Permanent Program Launches

Public Outreach

NYC DOT and the Department of City Planning (DCP) will be embarking on a six-month outreach program engaging with New Yorkers to inform the future design rules for the permanent Open Restaurants program. In-Person and remote roundtables will take place throughout this fall and winter. These discussions will offer opportunities for New Yorkers to share their thoughts on how Open Restaurant structures should be designed to ensure that the final program rules balance creativity, feasibility and cost as they seek to enhance comfort and safety for all New Yorkers. Specifics and updates on these sessions will be posted below.

>> Take the NYC Open Restaurants Survey

Five Borough Board Meetings

NYC DOT and DCP will present to each of the five Borough Boards in December and January. NYC DOT and DCP will share an overview of the Permanent Open Restaurants Design Guidelines Process, Goals, and solicit feedback.

  • Queens, Monday, December 6, 2021, 5:30pm
  • Brooklyn, Tuesday, December 7, 2021, 6:00pm
  • Bronx, Thursday, December 16, 2021, 10:00am
  • Manhattan, Friday, December 17, 2021, 9:30am
  • Staten Island, details to follow

Virtual Public Roundtables

NYC DOT and DCP will host a series of virtual roundtables that are open to the public, where any New Yorker can share their thoughts on the permanent Open Restaurants program. The first two will be:

  • Tuesday, January 11, 2022, 12:00pm - 1:30pm
  • Wednesday, January 12, 2022, 6:00pm - 7:30pm

Virtual Topic-Based Roundtables

Alfresco NYC - RPA, Design Trust, and Tri-State Transportation Campaign in coordination with NYC DOT & DCP will host a series of virtual roundtables to bring together a range of stakeholders from the hospitality industry, design professions, and transit and accessibility advocates, to provide an in-depth look at major issues to be addressed by the permanent program. Details to follow.

Engagement Process and Timeline

Estimated Timeframe
Milestones
Fall/Winter 2021 Design and public engagement processes, organized and led by DCP and NYC DOT, and assisted by an interagency Open Restaurants design taskforce. The design taskforce consists of representatives from relevant agencies involved in managing the restaurant industry or in street planning: DOB, DCWP, DEP, DOHMH, DSNY, EDC, FDNY, LPC, MOPD, MOME, PDC, and SBS. 
Spring 2022 Completion of the design engagement process, marked with the release of design guidelines in Spring 2022, which will detail all the intended design parameters, vetted by the interagency group.
Summer/Fall 2022 A robust community and borough level engagement and outreach program will be set up for sharing the design concepts in advance of the City’s rulemaking process known as the City Administrative Procedure Act, or CAPA. It is through CAPA that the City will finalize and adopt formal rules relating to the permanent Open Restaurants program, including rules for outdoor dining structures in the roadway.
Winter 2022 Following adoption of the rules through CAPA, NYC DOT will publish a final visual "manual" of design guidance, including an easy-to-use digital application that will provide a roadmap to restaurants on their outdoor dining structures. This resource will be made available ahead of the official launch of applications for the permanent Open Restaurants program, expected in late 2022.
: People sit in an outdoor dining area set up in a roadway along the curb surrounded by a low barrier filled with plants. Large red umbrellas are positioned over two of the tables.
Aleli's roadway dining setup in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn

Apply to be an Open Restaurant

NYC's Open Restaurant Program is an effort to implement a citywide multi-phase program to expand outdoor seating options for food establishments to promote open space, enhance social distancing, and help them rebound in these difficult economic times. The temporary Open Restaurant program is in effect per Executive Order.

There are two options for expanded outdoor dining:

  • Open Restaurants – Individual food establishment may apply below and self-certify to use the sidewalk or curb lane adjacent to their business.
  • Open Streets Temporary Full Closure – Community based organizations, BIDs or groups of three (3) or more restaurants on a single block may join together to apply online for outdoor dining on streets temporarily closed to traffic. More information and locations on nyc.gov/openstreets.

This application is only for food establishments seeking permission to place outdoor seating in front of their establishment on the sidewalk and/or roadway. You do not need to apply to place outdoor seating on private property.

NYC's approach prioritizes geographic equity and allows us to reach the areas most impacted by COVID-19.

Outdoor Dining Area Siting Requirements

DRAFT diagram to show outdoor dining specifications for sidewalk seating and curbside seating at an Open Restaurant

Please review the requirements to determine if your location qualifies to have an Open Restaurant sidewalk and/or roadway seating area.

Submitting an application is an acknowledgement that the establishment understands and agrees to all applicable terms and conditions and all applicable laws and guidance. If an establishment is not compliant, the City may revoke or suspend its authorization at any time during the program period.

Structures

  • Structures or additions of any kind may not be bolted down or drilled into the roadway, sidewalk, or building façade
  • Structures may not be taller than your storefront or one story, whichever is shorter
  • Multiple level structures are not permitted on the sidewalk or roadway
  • Structures, tents or umbrellas may not block any right of way signs or street regulation signs, fire escapes, Siamese pipes or water sampling stations
  • The establishment cannot remove any City property already installed on the sidewalk and/or curb lane in front of their establishment; such removal by the establishment may result in a fine
  • No structures on the sidewalk can be located adjacent to the curb in the ‘amenity zone’; for roadway structures, you can only build up to or on the curb

Heaters

  • Electric radiant heaters are allowed on both sidewalk and roadway
  • Natural gas radiant heaters are allowed on the sidewalk only
  • Propane heaters are no longer allowed
    • The Department of Small Business Services will be providing grants up to $5,000 for restaurants with annual revenue of $1 million or less, which may be used to swap out propane heaters for either electric or natural gas radiant heaters.

Amplified Sound

  • Amplified sound is not allowed in either sidewalk or roadway dining setups

Sidewalk Seating

  • All items for outdoor dining (i.e. tables, chairs, heaters) must be up against the wall of the business or as close as possible; they may not infringe upon or otherwise impede the 8’ pedestrian clear path
  • Sidewalk seating area may not exceed business frontage
  • Must leave an 8' clear path for pedestrians
  • Must be at least 3' from the adjacent business
  • Must not cover, shade, come in contact with, or be placed within 1’ of the trunk or branches of a City tree
  • Must not be placed within or over City tree beds without a permit from NYC Parks
  • Must not cause rainwater runoff to discharge directly into a tree bed
  • Heaters must be placed at least 5’ from trunk or branches of City trees
  • Cannot block subway grate, utility hardware or Siamese water connection
  • Cannot block bus stop waiting area
  • For clear path purposes, parking meters, traffic signs and tree pits with flush gratings (without tree guards) are exempt. All other above-grade structures are considered obstructions
  • Tables and chairs must be provided by applicant
  • No cooking, barbeque, nor open flames (i.e. ethanol gel chafing fuel) are allowed in roadway nor sidewalk seating areas
  • Sidewalk seating elements must be removed when a city agency, utility company or other contractor needs to access the space for installation or repair
  • Platforms may not be installed on sidewalks

Roadway Seating

Restaurants must:

  • Comply with NYC Fire Department Open Flame and other applicable Fire Codes
  • Remove tables and chairs or secure them in place when not in operation
  • Tables, chairs, and barriers must be provided by applicant
  • No cooking, barbeque, nor open flames (i.e. ethanol gel chafing fuel) are allowed in roadway nor sidewalk seating areas

Roadway Barriers:

  • Create a protective barrier, such as planters or objects of similar size and weight, on all three sides of the seating perimeter that are in the roadway, to separate seating from the travel lane
  • Barriers must be at least 18” in width and 30-36” in height (excluding plantings) on all three sides that are in the roadway, to preserve visibility for motorists and provide protection for patrons (see Siting Criteria diagram)
  • All 18” roadway barriers must be completely filled with soil or sand
  • Barriers must have a fully built interior wall and bottom to hold filler material
  • Continuous reflector tape must be added along the top outside edges, and snow sticks must be added to the corners of the two barriers facing traffic
  • A plastic water-filled barrier in front of the roadway barrier facing oncoming traffic will be required for a majority of restaurants; “high priority” restaurants for whom a water-filled barrier will be required will be identified based on the street’s crash rates and traffic volumes, as well as if it’s a truck route. These restaurants will be contacted separately to confirm this requirement applies to them. For all other restaurants, similarly placed water-filled barriers are highly recommended
  • Place such barriers directly adjacent to each other (no gaps) and no more than 8’ from the curb (see Siting Criteria diagram)
  • Ensure visibility of patrons and barriers at night by clearly marking all barriers with yellow high intensity retro-reflective tape or reflectors (see Siting Criteria diagram)
  • Provide a ramp for ADA compliance, which can be made of non-permanent materials
  • Not place seating or barriers within 15’ of a fire hydrant. Doing so jeopardizes fire safety for your fellow New Yorkers
  • Not place seating or barriers within 8’ of a marked or unmarked crosswalk, to provide for safe vehicle turns and avoid crowding
  • Roadway structures may only be built up to or on the curb; no structures on the sidewalk can be located adjacent to the curb in the ‘amenity zone’
  • Not provide any lighting that is blinding to passing traffic
  • Not place seating within a No Stopping Anytime or No Standing Anytime zone, bike lane, bus lane/stop, taxi stand, or Car Share space
    [Exception: For part-time No Stopping or No Standing zones, seating may be placed when those rules are not in effect. Barriers and seating must be removed from the roadway when No Stopping or No Standing is in effect]

Tents & Enclosures:

  • Only utilize umbrellas with a weighted base or tents or other shelters, not to exceed 400 SF (square feet) in total or fully enclose the seating area, which follow manufacturers installation instructions to secure the tents properly and safely.
  • Areas of multiple tents that are combined or are tied to each other cannot exceed 400 SF in total.
  • All such umbrellas and tents may not extend past the barrier, obstruct access to or ventilation of utility covers, or obstruct clear paths.
  • Refer to NYC DOB’s 2021-005 Bulletin for information about when permits are required (issued May 28, 2021)
  • Umbrellas and tents should not be used during inclement weather such as high wind condition.
  • New York State outdoor dining guidelines permit installing a temporary or fixed cover (i.e. awning, roof or tent):
    • If two (2) or more side walls are open, and at least one is parallel to the roadway, you may operate following all outdoor dining guidelines (i.e. 6’ between tables, no more than 10 people seated at one table)
    • If three (3) side walls or more are in use, the occupancy limit may not exceed indoor dining capacity per the NYC Restaurant Reopening Guide, and all indoor dining guidelines must be followed
  • Enclosed structures, such as plastic domes, will be allowed for individual parties and must have adequate ventilation to allow for air circulation
  • Outdoor dining structures may not cover, shade, come in contact with, or be placed within 1’ of the trunk or branches a City tree
  • Outdoor dining structures may not be placed within or over City tree beds without a permit from NYC Parks
  • Outdoor dining structures must not cause rainwater runoff to discharge directly into a tree bed; runoff from cleaning may not be discharged or allowed to flow into a tree bed
  • For restaurants with roof structures, the city will be releasing tips and guidance on how to make them secure, as well as quick action to remove snow from roofs, awnings, and tents
  • The City will allow restaurants to incorporate heating elements into their outdoor dining setups, learn more about approved heating elements in the Heating FAQ
  • Only electrical heaters are allowed within the roadway setups
  • Heating elements shall be placed at least 5’ from trunk or branches of City trees
  • Additional restrictions apply to restaurants in New York State Hot Spot Zones
  • Structures may not be taller than your storefront or one story, whichever is shorter
  • Multiple level structures are not permitted on the sidewalk or roadway

Snow:

DSNY Guidance for Open Restaurants during Winter Weather and Snow Alerts
  • During an active snow alert when roadway dining is suspended:
    • Open Restaurants will be notified by email when roadway dining is suspended
    • Diners may not sit in roadway setups. Please remove or secure any tables and chairs
    • All electrical heaters in roadway set ups must be removed
    • If possible, restaurants should remove any overhead coverings. At minimum, please regularly remove the snow from overhead coverings until the snow alert ends
    • When high winds are expected, restaurants should take all precautionary measures to anchor objects in the outdoor seating area such as umbrellas, tents, tables and chairs, or bring them inside
  • If 12” or more of snow is forecast, restaurants must also:
    • Remove or consolidate your roadway setups to have as small a footprint as possible along the curb
    • If you’re unable to remove or consolidate your roadway setup, you are encouraged to take steps to protect your asset from damage due to snow removal operations. DSNY has conducted training exercises that included simulated snow removal operations on narrow streets with roadway setups on both sides. DSNY will conduct targeted outreach to restaurants to ensure setups meet NYC DOT siting criteria and that roads can be efficiently plowed and remain passable
    • Use your snow sticks to increase visibility of your setup components if they are moved
  • You may sign up to receive snow alerts and all snow-related updates through Notify NYC. To sign up for Notify NYC, call 311, visit www.nyc.gov/notifynyc, or follow @NotifyNYC on Twitter

Restaurant owners may:

  • Leave barriers in place within a metered zone, alternate side parking, or No Parking Anytime zone, provided that that tables and chairs are removed or secured when not in operation
  • Where seating is authorized along a curb, install a platform behind the required barrier to flush height with curb to facilitate ADA compliance, prevent the curb from becoming a tripping hazard, and allow drainage to underpass seating
    • Such platforms shall not block rain water drainage getting to the curb or flowing along the curb
    • Such platforms shall not obstruct access to or ventilation of utility covers.

The following are prohibited without a permit from NYC Parks:

  • Tree removal
  • Tree pruning
  • Attaching lights or other materials to trees
  • Constructing any structure within or over a tree bed

To apply for a Tree Work Permit, please visit:nycgovparks.org/services/forestry/tree-work-permit

NYC Parks Tree work:

  • In the event of emergency or routine tree work, sidewalk and/or roadway seating elements and closures must be removed for access as requested by NYC Parks
  • Parks will provide at least 48 hours’ notice whenever possible, however for emergency tree work, little advance notice may be provided

Video: Open Restaurants Roadway Seating Walk-Through

開放餐廳路面座位示範(中文字幕)- Chinese Subtitles Restaurantes Abiertos guía para áreas de asientos en la calzada (subtítulos en español) - Spanish Subtitles For an audio described version of this video in English, please visit: https://youtu.be/130xTlwVYl8

Apply Online

To speed up the approval process, NYC is allowing food establishments to self-certify that they meet program requirements.

>>NYC Open Restaurants Information & Application

For translation assistance with the application, please contact us online.

Open Restaurants Map & Dashboard

Find an Open Restaurant near you! Search the NYC Open Restaurants map and dashboard at nycopenrestaurants.info. Restaurants appear in this database as soon as they self-certify.

Next Steps

Food establishments that self-certified will receive an email from the City authorizing outdoor seating on the City’s sidewalk and/or roadway in front of the establishment, in accordance with all applicable terms and conditions, laws and guidance.

Upon submission of the application and selection of either or both outdoor seating options, establishments will fulfill all the requirements of the New York State Liquor Authority (“SLA”) for the “of right” extension and/or “Municipal” extension and no further filing with SLA will be required.

Inspections & Enforcement

NYC DOT may immediately revise, terminate or suspend, for a period of time and without prior notice, the seating area usage based on valid complaints, lack of ADA access, need for repairs, or for any other reason.

Outdoor Dining Inspections

NYC DOT teams conduct inspections and respond to complaints. We work with restaurants to improve their setups with the goal of bringing more businesses into compliance whenever possible. Restaurants not in compliance will be subject to fines or removal after ample notice.

Abandoned Outdoor Dining

All roadway seating must be used and occupied within 30 days of authorization. If roadway seating is not used and occupied for any 30-day period, any property within such roadway space may be deemed abandoned and the restaurant must have it removed. The City may remove the abandoned property after providing sufficient notice. Any restaurant can reapply to the program at any time after removal.

Resources

General:

Outdoor Dining Setup:

Outdoor Dining Service:

Executive Orders:

New York State:

Contact Us

For help completing the application please call the SBS Hotline: 888-SBS-4NYC (888-727-4692). NYC launched this small business hotline to answer the most pressing questions of small business owners as they prepare to re-open. Small Business Advocates and Compliance Advisors will monitor the hotline and have been equipped with the latest guidelines and regulations to share with business owners.

For questions about the Open Restaurants program, self-certification process, or translation assistance with the application please contact us online.

NYC will rely on each establishment's compliance with all of these terms and conditions and all applicable guidance. If you want to report an issue, concern or violation about an Open Restaurant, please contact NYC311.

Looking for information about NYC’s Open Streets program? Visit NYC Open Streets.