Supplemental FAQ: Multi-Agency Indoor and Outdoor Dining Guidelines


*IMPORTANT NOTE: Current temporary State dining restrictions (below) override much of the indoor dining guidance included in this FAQ. Please be sure to stay up to date on all City and State guidance to determine when indoor dining and use of enclosed outdoor dining structures are allowed. This FAQ will be updated once these temporary restrictions are lifted.


NYC Indoor Dining Shutdown

Pursuant to Executive Order 202.81, effective Monday, December 14, 2020, all licensed establishments in New York City with on premises service privileges (e.g., restaurants, taverns, catering halls, clubs, manufacturers with tasting rooms) must cease all indoor on premises service until further notice. Please see NYS indoor dining guidance here.

NYS 10PM to 5AM Closing Requirement for Restaurants and Bars

Effective Friday, November 13th, bars, restaurants and any State Liquor Authority licensed establishment is required to close from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. daily. Restaurants are allowed to provide curbside, food-only pick-up or delivery after 10 p.m., but are not permitted to serve alcohol to-go. Please see NYS closing times guidance here.


This page will be updated as new information is released, please revisit frequently.

Last Updated: January 8, 2020


The NYC Department of Small Business Services' Food and Beverage Industry Partnership and Office of Nightlife at the Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment teams have compiled this Multi-Agency FAQ for Indoor and Outdoor Dining Guidelines and Regulations to supplement existing guidance from the Mayor's Office and multiple City agencies. 


Topics Include:

  • Health & Safety
  • Indoor Dining
    • Indoor Occupancy
  • Outdoor Dining
    • Outdoor Dining Structures
    • Structural Safety
    • Occupancy and Ventilation
    • Roadway Barriers
    • Outdoor Enclosures
    • Snow Events
    • Outdoor Propane Heaters
    • Outdoor Electric and Gas Heaters
  • Music, Performance, and Events

Thank you to our partner City agencies, who are working hard to ensure that the information and support provided by the City meet the needs of its business owners and operators.

For more information you can also visit the NYC Business Restaurant Reopening Guide: nyc.gov/restaurantreopening or call the Business Reopening Hotline: 888-SBS-4NYC (888-727-4692).


Click a topic, or press the enter key on a topic, to reveal its answer.

Health & Safety


Is everyone who enters a premise where indoor dining is taking place subject to temperature check and contact tracing rules?

A temperature check is required for every employee and customer entering the premises where indoor dining is taking place. Operators must also require at least one person from each customer party to sign-in upon entering the premises (or prior via remote sign-in), providing the full name, address, and phone number for use in contact tracing efforts.

Operators are not required to do temperature checks or collect contact information from vendors entering the premises however they should collect contact info "to the extent possible". See NYS guidance here.


Are restaurants obligated to keep a log of the daily temperature of each employee and each guest?
All staff and customers are required to complete a temperature check before or immediately upon arriving at the establishment. Employee temperatures must be taken but do not have to be taken at the worksite by the employer (with some exceptions). Do not keep records of employee or customer health data (e.g., the specific temperature data of an individual), but records to confirm individuals were screened and the result of such screening (e.g., pass/fail, cleared/not cleared) may be maintained. The following link provides a sample employee health screening form.


Does temperature check data need to be maintained?
Logs confirming that a temperature check took place and the result of such check (e.g. pass/fail, cleared/not cleared) may be kept on site but are not required. Maintaining records of specific employee or customer health data, including temperature check data, is prohibited.


For how long must customer contact tracing information be maintained?
Customer sign-in records and contact tracing information must be maintained for at least 28 days. 


How is the NYC DOHMH alerting businesses regarding regular health inspections?
Until further notice, NYC DOHMH will contact by email or phone any food service establishment in advance of a regular pending health inspection. This temporary process is designed to protect the health of NYC DOHMH inspectors and business employees.


What can businesses do if their H-25 Food Service Establishment Permits have expired? Is there still an exemption for expired permits?
All NYC DOHMH permits that expired after March 13, 2020, remain valid because of the COVID-19 public health emergency. When the governor lifts the state of emergency, you will have 45 days to renew. You may still renew now, click here.

Indoor Dining


Is it still mandatory for customers to purchase food in order to purchase an alcoholic beverage? Yes. The purchase of alcoholic beverages must be accompanied by the purchase of food. See SLA guidance here.


Can I use my indoor dining counter (such as a sushi counter) for dining service?
Yes, restaurants may allow guests to dine at dining counters (like a sushi counter) as long as they are seated, the counter is not used to prepare drinks, and there are barriers between any staff behind the counter and those who are dining. Guests may not sit or congregate around any bar area that is primarily used to prepare and serve drinks. The restaurant can use that space to prepare drinks and serve tables.

Each party sitting at a counter used primarily for serving food must be separated from any other party by at least 6 feet. Any food prepared at the dining counter cannot be passed through or over the counter barrier; instead, wait staff must deliver food and drink to customers by walking around the counter and delivering it to the dining room side of the counter. Learn more here.


Are food ordering or payment transactions allowed at an indoor bar counter, as long as patrons and staff wear masks and the bar counter is not used to serve food or beverages to customers to consume on-premise?
No. Indoor bars where liquor is normally prepared and served may be used only as a location for employees to prepare beverages for service to patrons at their table. Customers must be prohibited from walking up to or standing at the bar to order, pay, or be served.


Indoor Occupancy

Should customers standing in line to order food (take-out included) be included in the 25% capacity limit for indoor dining?
YES. All customers inside your establishment must be included as part of your 25% capacity limit regardless of activity. See guidance here.


Are outdoor dining areas such as private patios or street and roadway seating included in the overall 25% capacity limit for indoor dining?
Generally, only customers inside your establishment should be included in the overall capacity limit for indoor dining. If those customers at the private patio must come through the establishment to exit, the number of allowable indoor diners may need to be reduced.
See DOB Bulletin 2020-20.

If any of your outdoor dining areas are enclosed with less than 50% of sides fully open for ventilation, then these areas must also follow the capacity limits for the enclosed areas and all indoor dining guidelines.


How is restaurant capacity calculated if the capacity of the room exceeded the seated capacity on the plans?
If there are seating plans indicating capacity limits, indoor occupancy must be calculated based either on indoor capacity included on a Certificate of Occupancy or Place of Assembly.


How are the six feet between tables measured. Table to table or between guests/seats? How do venues without Certificates of Occupancy calculate their occupancy limit for indoor dining?
Refer to guidelines provided in DOB Bulletin 2020-020 to determine the number of diners allowed in indoor dining spaces where a Certificate of Occupancy or posted capacity is unavailable.


How is occupancy calculated for enclosed outdoor structures that must operate according to indoor dining guidelines?
Occupancy guidelines for fully enclosed outdoor structures (less than 50% of sides open) are the same for indoor dining establishments without a Certificate of Occupancy. They can be found in Section B of the DOB Bulletin here.


What are the next steps toward expanding indoor dining in NYC to 50%?
The governor's office determines any continued expansion of maximum allowed indoor dining occupancy in NYC. We will provide updates as soon as direction is received from the State.

Outdoor Dining

Outdoor Dining Structures

Are there specific guidelines and/or recommendations for outdoor dining structures during the winter season?
The two primary concerns related to outdoor dining during winter months are the continued health and safety of employees and dining public and the proper fortification of roadway barriers and temporary outdoor dining enclosures. All temporary structural elements should be strong enough to withstand inclement winter weather, snow load, and street plowing.

Operators must also determine the maximum allowable occupancy of their outdoor enclosures depending on the percentage of side walls that remain open and must ensure adequate ventilation. Businesses must comply with all NYC Dept. of Buildings program guidelines for Open Restaurants here on permitting, placement, and use of temporary outdoor structures.


Structural Safety

As the program's duration will continue through the winter months, and winter weather creates the potential for inclement weather to affect road conditions, the City is working with the restaurant industry and other stakeholders to develop additional safety features to strengthen roadway barriers further.

To ensure timely implementation, the City will require restaurant owners to comply with new safety features by November 15, 2020. Also, significant snow events may necessitate the temporary removal of some barriers from the roadway. Operators are encouraged to sign up at NotifyNYC to receive alerts about severe weather events and emergencies that may affect their operation of outdoor dining.


Occupancy and Ventilation

Restaurants will be permitted to use enclosures to keep diners warm. In partial enclosures, at least two of the structure’s side walls must remain open and electrical heaters are allowed. The side walls may be closed in full enclosures, but occupancy limitations will be capped at 25% of capacity, and indoor dining guidelines must be followed; electrical heaters will also be allowed. Enclosed structures, such as plastic domes, will be allowed for individual parties and must have adequate ventilation to allow for air circulation.

 

What is the occupancy limit for outdoor dining?
General outdoor dining under the Open Restaurants program should follow all existing programmatic and physical distancing guidelines. For private events: no single outdoor event to which all guests have been invited (e.g., a wedding, an office party) may exceed 50 guests. See guidance here.


Are there specific ventilation guidelines for a fully enclosed outdoor temporary structure?
YES. Fully enclosed outdoor temporary structures must follow the same NYS indoor dining ventilation protocols listed here for establishments that do not have central air handling systems or without the ability to control them.


Can tent enclosures be set up on rooftops?
YES. Temporary, removable, and flexible membrane structures no larger than 400 square feet each that are properly erected, anchored, and maintained according to the manufacturer's instructions may be allowed on rooftops. It is the owners' responsibility to take precautions of additional wind speed on rooftops. Owners must remove these structures on rooftops when high wind conditions are observed or receiving weather advisory alerts. Sign up for Weather Advisory here.


For tent structures on an adjacent private property, does the DOB 400 square foot threshold still apply?
YES, the same square footage threshold applies.

 

Roadway Barriers


Am I required to make adjustments to my existing roadway seating barriers to meet new Open Restaurants enhanced safety guidelines?

YES. By December 15, 2020, all barriers must have a fully built interior wall and bottom to hold filler material. Barriers must be completely filled with soil or sand/sandbags to better withstand the stresses that winter will bring (slippery roads, snow removal and snow piles). Continuous reflector tape must be affixed along the top outside edges, and snow sticks must be added to the corners facing traffic.

Which restaurants will also be required by December 15 to add a plastic water-filled barrier in front of their roadway barrier facing oncoming traffic?
The City has already identified “high priority” restaurants for whom a water-filled barrier will be required based on the street’s crash rates and traffic volumes, as well as if it’s a truck route. These restaurants have been contacted separately to confirm the requirement applies.If you have not been contacted, you are not required to add a plastic water-filled barrier in front of their roadway barrier.

 

Outdoor Enclosures


Am I allowed to install a temporary or fixed cover (awning, roof or tent) on my outdoor dining enclosure?
YES. NYS outdoor dining guidelines permit installing a temporary or fixed cover (awning, roof or tent) on an outdoor enclosure so long as it has at least two open sides for airflow and one of the open sides is parallel to the roadway. In other words, at least 50% of the side wall surface area must be open.


If at least two sides are completely open (one long side and one short side), you may operate as long as existing outdoor dining guidelines are followed, (e.g., 6’ between tables, no more than 10 people seated at one table).


If fewer than the two sides are completely open, the occupancy limit will be capped at 25% capacity (to match indoor dining limit) and all indoor dining guidelines here
must be followed. 


For outdoor enclosures 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.

Additional restriction apply to restaurants in New York State COVID Hot Spot Zones, click here for more details. Find your Zone here.

Am I allowed to utilize plastic domes, or “bubbles”, for outdoor dining?
Enclosed structures, such as plastic domes, will be allowed for individual parties and must have adequate ventilation to allow for air circulation. 

  

Snow Events


What outdoor dining safety restrictions and procedures must be implemented during active snow alerts?


During an active snow alert:

  • Diners may not sit in roadway dining areas.
  • Tables and chairs in roadway areas must be removed or secured.
  • Electrical heaters in roadway areas must be removed.
  • If possible, remove overhead coverings or regularly remove snow until snow alert ends to avoid buildup.
  • At minimum, regularly remove snow from overhead coverings until snow alertt ends. 


If 12” or more of snow is forecast:

  • 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 assets from damage due to snow removal operations. The Department of Sanitation (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 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 can 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, or follow @NotifyNYC on Twitter.



Outdoor Propane Heaters


Which employees need certificates of fitness for propane tanks?
As outlined in the Mayor's Emergency Executive Order 153, the FDNY authorizes the limited use of propane for comfort heating of restaurant patrons during the COVID-19 state of emergency. A restaurant owner must ensure that at least one employee or owner of the restaurant obtains the T-93 Certificate of Fitness ("COF") within three weeks of submitting the attestation (the FDNY permit application). A T-93 COF holder is responsible for ensuring proper and constant supervision of the heater and must be on the premises at all times while a propane container is connected to a heater. A COF holder is also responsible for the on-site supervision of connecting/disconnecting the propane containers from the heaters.

It is recommended that more than one employee or owner hold a COF to ensure someone is always on the premises when heaters are in use and when containers are being connected/disconnected.


Can propane tanks be used in interior courtyards?
Propane heaters are allowed only in open, uncovered areas on sidewalks (for businesses participating in the Open Restaurants program) or eligible outdoor dining areas situated on privately owned property, such as a rear courtyard. Propane containers larger than 16.4 oz (one-pound) must never be transported through a building for any reason.

This means that if your courtyard is accessible only through a building, you cannot use propane heaters that use a container larger than one-pound. Additionally, propane heaters are not allowed under tents or other membrane structures, regardless of whether the tent has sides unless specific approval is obtained from the FDNY.


Can we store propane tanks inside?
Any propane container not connected to a heater is deemed to be in storage, and whether it can be stored indoors depends upon the size and quantity of the propane container(s). No propane containers of any size are allowed to be used or stored below grade, such as in a cellar or basement. Storage of 20-pound propane containers is prohibited unless you have been issued an FDNY permit for an approved facility for LPG storage, which is typically issued only for outdoor locations. Up to 45 one-pound propane containers may be stored on the premises outdoors, as described in the FDNY Guidance.

Only if outdoor storage is not available, up to 45 one-pound propane containers may be kept indoors. They shall be stored above grade in a metal cabinet, in an indoor area protected by a sprinkler system. Such a cabinet shall be installed away from sources of heat. Storage is also prohibited on rooftops, sidewalks, and public streets.


How long is the approval process for the storage of 20-pound propane containers?
Generally, the approval process is at least 40 days. Restaurants considering whether to apply should carefully examine the storage requirements in the FDNY Guidance, Fire Code Section FC3809, and Fire Department Rule 3 RCNY 3809-01. It is anticipated that few restaurants would have the ability to acquire approval for an outdoor storage facility on their premises.


Do employees need certificates of fitness to use one-pound propane containers?
Yes. The T-93 Certificate of Fitness is required for anyone who will store, handle, or use any quantity of propane and propane-fueled heaters at eligible restaurants. See FDNY guidance here.


Can a group of restaurants create a group storage site? Does storage need to be on-site? Alternately, if we are removing propane from the site every night, is that allowable?
There are many obstacles to the storage of 20-pound propane containers in NYC. Other than propane vendors who accept cylinders for exchange, there are few if any lawful options for restaurants seeking to store 20-pound propane containers. All propane containers must be disconnected from heaters at the close of business. All propane containers must be removed from the premises (except 45 or fewer one-pound containers) unless the restaurant has obtained approval for its LPG storage facility. The Fire Department is supportive of industry efforts to develop legal storage options that would be code-compliant. .


Can empty propane containers be stored inside?
Empty propane containers are treated the same as full containers. An empty 20-pound container is subject to the same restrictions as a full 20-pound container, and it cannot ever be stored indoors unless located in an approved LPG storage facility. Similarly, an empty one-pound container is treated as if full. You are allowed to store up to 45 one-pound containers indoors only under the conditions described above, whether the containers are full or empty.


Can you recommend vendors that offer daily drop off and pick up of propane containers?
No, city agencies cannot endorse vendors.


What are the penalties for illegally storing or transporting propane?
The Fire Code strictly regulates the storage, handling, and use of propane because of the significant hazard to life and property. The explosive potential of a single twenty-pound container of propane is enough to severely damage a building and/or cause a structural collapse. Failure to comply with the Mayor's Emergency Executive Order 153 and the Fire Code will result in enforcement action by the Fire Department. Methods of enforcement include Violation Orders and Summonses. In addition to financial penalties, propane heaters and propane containers may be confiscated by the Fire Department, and Fire Department permits for the use of propane and propane heaters may be revoked. Additionally, restaurants that participate in the Open Restaurants program will be subject to the revocation of their certification.


Outdoor Electric and Gas Heaters


Where can we find guidance on the use of natural gas heaters? Are these acceptable under tents or umbrellas?
Outdoor natural gas heater guidance can be found here. Natural gas heaters may be used only in fully open (sidewalks or outdoor privately-owned property) and never under shade structures such as tents or umbrellas.


Where can we find guidance on the use of electric heaters? Are these acceptable under tents or umbrellas?
Outdoor electric heater guidance can be found here. Electric heaters may be used under tents, umbrellas, or other shelters as long as units have been installed by a Certified Master Electrician and are operated following the manufacturer's instructions.


Can we install electric heaters on building facades where an awning covers outdoor seats and, if yes, can these heaters be hardwired?
Yes, wall mounted electric heaters are allowed and must be located following the manufacturer's instructions pertaining to clearances from combustibles materials. Hardwiring is permissible, and Table 1 of Buildings Bulletin 2020-18 provides applicable code sections that must be adhered to when the permanent wiring method is elected.


Are forced air systems powered by diesel or regular gas allowable for heating?
If the unit remains on the sidewalk, it can be enclosed for safety and runs quietly. The proposed use is not authorized by EEO 153 and is therefore not authorized on sidewalks. The Fire Department does not have the authority to modify this prohibition. If the use is proposed on private property with portable fueled equipment, such use is prohibited by Fire Code Section FC313.3. Applications may be made to the Fire Department for a modification (variance) to allow such use. The application to request a modification is here.


Can a restaurant use a gas generator to power an electric heater on the street?
This proposed use is prohibited on the street, and the Fire Department will not grant a modification to allow it in the context of outdoor dining areas located on streets or sidewalks. If the use is proposed on private property with portable fueled equipment, such use is prohibited by Fire Code Section FC313.3. Applications may be made to the Fire Department for a modification (variance) to allow such use. The application to request a modification is here.

Music, Performance, and Events


Where can I find further information about what kind of incidental music is allowable? Who enforces the live music rules?
The State Liquor Authority is offering guidance on incidental music on their Phase 3/4 Guidelines for On-Premise Establishments. The SLA is enforcing these rules based on the licensee's method of operation (e.g., if the venue was allowed to have live music before, then they may have incidental background music during this time).

You may also refer to the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs and Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment’s FAQ for Group Music Activities (October 2020) for more guidance on events and performances.


Are performances such as music or comedy allowed either inside or outside if there is no amplification and social distancing is enforced?
Only music incidental to the dining experience is permissible at this time. All other forms of live entertainment, such as exotic dancing, comedy shows, karaoke, etc. are not currently permissible. See guidance here.