Sidewalks are an essential public space throughout our city. If your business is on the ground floor, it is important to know your responsibilities related to the sidewalk in front of your storefront. This guide outlines your most important responsibilities as a business owner when it comes to sidewalk cleaning and maintenance. It also provides key information about how to advertise your business, sell goods, or serve food on the sidewalk in front of your business—and remain in compliance while doing so.
How do I know what section of the sidewalk is my responsibility?
Property lines sometimes extend beyond the building line and into the surrounding sidewalk. That means that a portion of the sidewalk in front of your business might be within the property that you own or rent.
The activities allowed on the sidewalk in front of your business differ depending on whether the sidewalk is within your property lines, or it is outside of those lines and considered a public sidewalk. Make sure you are aware of the property lines for your space so that you pay attention to the right regulations. This information can be identified in the property deed document, or in a land survey certified by a licensed property surveyor.
Keep in mind that as a business owner, you are responsible for making sure that the entire sidewalk in front of and next to your business is kept clean and passable.
This is true regardless of where property lines fall, and applies whether you rent or own the storefront that your business occupies.
- Any structure or activity extending beyond private property lines requires revocable consent from the City, which gives you permission to occupy or use the space on, under, or over a public street or sidewalk. If you are a tenant, you will need permission from your landlord as part of your revocable consent application.
- Property owners are responsible for fixing any defects on the sidewalk within and around their property lines. For more information on sidewalk maintenance and repairs, visit nyc.gov/sidewalks.
Details are available below in the following sections: Business Responsibilities Revocable Consent Permissible Business Activities Licensing and Regulations NYC DOT Street Seats Program
Sidewalk Cleaning and Removal of Obstructions
You can avoid violations and ensure pedestrian safety by keeping the sidewalk in front of your business clean, clear, and free of anything that could block pedestrian traffic.
As a business owner, you are required to: Clean the sidewalk and gutters next to your business, extending from the building line to 18 inches into the street. Fine avoided: $100 - $300.
The Department of Sanitation’s (DSNY) Enforcement Division checks sidewalks and gutters as part of a regular schedule. You can call 311 or enter your address online here
for enforcement times in your area. Clear snow and ice on the sidewalk to create a path that is at least four feet wide. Fine avoided: $100 - $350.
Remember to also clear the space around fire hydrants, litter baskets, and sidewalk corner ramps. Do not push snow or ice into the street. Remove tripping hazards and debris. Fine avoided: $100 - $300.
- Keep your storefront area clear to avoid blocking pedestrian traffic. Be careful that items like waste bags or receptacles, boxes, A-frame signs (also called "sandwich boards") or ice machines do not extend more than three feet beyond the building line, or block sidewalk traffic in any way.
- Other structures, such as coin operated rides, must follow specific size requirements to make sure the sidewalk is clear for pedestrian traffic.
- ATMs may not be placed on public sidewalks, regardless of size.
Review the Avoid Common Business Violations
guide and DSNY's Sidewalk and Street Obstruction Laws
for additional details on how to avoid violations for dirty or obstructed sidewalks.
What is revocable consent?
Revocable consent is an agreement between the City and a property owner to install and maintain a structure on, under, or over
a public street or sidewalk. If you'd like to place a structure on the sidewalk, be aware of the property lines around your business to know if the structure extends into a public sidewalk and requires revocable consent. When do you need revocable consent?
Property owners or tenants who want to install a structure beyond commercial property lines on, over, or under public streets and sidewalks must apply for revocable consent. Only items that are generally allowed by the City on public sidewalks – and do not block a path for pedestrians – are eligible. Approved items include benches, large planters, bicycle racks, enclosures for trash receptacles, cellar doors, and ramps. A full list can be found on DOT's website
. Businesses that have a stoop line stand license, as discussed below, do not need revocable consent from the City to operate the stoop line stand. How do you apply for a revocable consent?
DOT processes revocable consent applications. If you don't own the space your business occupies, you can still apply for revocable consent. To do so, you will need your landlord's consent, as well as copies of the deed and lease. The approval process usually takes between four and six months.
If approved, you will be required to pay an annual fee and insure the structure while the revocable consent agreement is in place, which is typically 10 years. The City reserves the right to cancel the agreement at any time.
If you operate a sidewalk café, you can receive revocable consent as part of the Department of Consumer Affairs' (DCA) sidewalk café license approval process. You do not need to apply to DOT separately for sidewalk café revocable consent.
For more details and to review the revocable consent application, visit NYC Resource: Revocable Consent Application
Permissible Business Activities
Advertising Goods and Services
You may use A-frames and folding "sandwich board" signs on the sidewalk next to your business if:
- The sidewalk measures at least 12 feet wide from the building to the curb.
- The sign does not extend beyond three feet from the building, and is not immediately next to the curb or in the center of a sidewalk.
- The sign is under five feet tall.
Note that A-frame signs are not allowed on residential streets, Zero Sidewalk Display streets (see below), or when temporarily prohibited by the City, such as during events or periods of construction.
Depending on your location, there are might be additional sidewalk usage regulations that impact your business.
Selling Goods and Serving Food
- Certain streets are designated "Zero Sidewalk Display," which prohibits any outdoor display of merchandise or advertising such as A-frame signs. Call 311 to ask if your business is located on a Zero Sidewalk Display street.
- If your business is located in a City-designated historic district, or near a City-designated landmark, you might require approval from the NYC Landmark Preservation Commission for certain uses of the sidewalk. Visit NYC Landmark Preservation Commission's website to determine whether this affects your property.
Stores and restaurants located on the ground floor may be eligible to use the public sidewalk directly in front of their business to sell goods or serve food. There are three possible ways to do so:
- Outdoor display of merchandise. You may exhibit merchandise on a temporary installation that is less than five feet high and extends no more than 3 feet from the building into the sidewalk.
- Stoop line stand. Retail businesses may operate a stoop line stand on the sidewalk outside of their storefront to sell fruits, vegetables, soft drinks, flowers, confectionary, or ice cream.
- Sidewalk café. Some restaurants may extend their serving area to include a portion of the public sidewalk. The City licenses three different types of sidewalk cafés, each with different requirements and licensing procedures: enclosed, unenclosed, and small unenclosed. For more details, refer to the Sidewalk Café Design and Regulations Guide.
Licensing and Regulations
Outdoor displays, stoop line stands, and sidewalk cafés are each subject to specific City rules and regulations. Both stoop line stands and sidewalk cafés require a license to operate.Outdoor display
Stoop line stand
- No license is required, but outdoor displays are prohibited on streets designated "Zero Sidewalk Display" streets. Contact 311 to determine whether your business is located in one of these zones. If an outdoor display is allowed in your area, make sure not to exceed allowed size of the display.
- You may only display items in an outdoor display that are also for sale inside the store.
- All sales must occur indoors. While you may display goods outside, customers must pay for the items inside.
- Temporary vending restrictions may apply. The City may temporarily prohibit vending on sidewalks due to health concerns or unusually high pedestrian or vehicle congestion. Call 311 for the most up-to-date information.
- A license from the Department of Consumer Affairs is required. See DCA Stoop Line Stand Application.
- Items not available for sale inside your store may only be sold in your stand if your business is at least 200 feet away from any business selling that item. For example, if you do not sell flowers inside your business, you only sell flowers in a stoop line stand if any nearby florist or flower shops are 200 feet or more away from your store.
- All sales must occur indoors.
- Stoop line stands must be constructed of wood or some other rigid material. Folding tables or boxes set on crates may not be used.
- You may not lease the stand to another business, or allow others to operate it.
- A license from the Department of Consumer Affairs is required. The sidewalk café application—and review process—differs according to the type of café. See the DCA Sidewalk Café License.
- Furnishings may not be permanently attached to the ground or the café wall.
- Avoid disrupting neighbors. Musical instruments or speakers may not be used outside. Flood lights may not be used to light the café. Direct all lighting toward the interior of the café.
Helpful Hints: Stoop line stands and sidewalk cafes
- Get consent from the property owner. Business tenants are required to provide proof of the property owner's consent during both the stoop line stand and sidewalk café application processes.
- Measure your sidewalk and understand the size restrictions associated with your intended use. The size of stoop line stands and sidewalk cafés are restricted to avoid obstructing the sidewalk, and can only be placed on sidewalks of at least a certain size.
After you receive the proper license:
- Keep the sidewalk free of litter and the structure contained within specific size limitations.
- Follow the approved design and use laid out in the license application.
Who receives the violation?
Stoop line stands or sidewalk café violations are issued to the license holder. Similarly, in the event that an outdoor display is out of compliance, the violation will be issued to the business owner.
NYC DOT Street Seats Program
If you own or operate a storefront business, you may be eligible to participate in the Street Seats program. This program allows businesses to temporarily create outdoor public spaces, namely seating and/or tables, during warm-weather months at locations where sidewalk seating is not available. Interested business owners can find eligibility information and materials
here to apply to the Street Seats program online.