Permanent Open Restaurants Text Amendment

People in outdoor seating at a restaurant

New York City is working to create a permanent, streamlined Open Restaurants program. As part of this program, the Department of City Planning and Department of Transportation propose a zoning text amendment to remove geographic restrictions on where sidewalk cafes can be located within NYC.

To be eligible for a sidewalk café, restaurants would need to meet physical criteria -- such as “clear path” requirements, including ensuring that table and chairs are appropriate distances from fire hydrants and neighboring businesses.

The proposal would not change the process for how sidewalk cafes are reviewed by local community boards. But, the areas where they can be considered would expand to all neighborhoods.

This proposed amendment to NYC’s Zoning Resolution  complements proposed legislative changes that would cut red tape for restaurant owners. Applications for the sidewalk café program and a new roadway café program would be consolidated under one agency, the Department of Transportation (DOT). Learn more about Permanent Open Restaurants from DOT here.

Why are zoning changes needed for Permanent Open Restaurants?

During the COVID-19 ban on indoor dining, New York City suspended existing outdoor dining regulations, including zoning location rules. This emergency program provides a necessary lifeline for nearly 11,000 restaurants– and allowed New Yorkers to appreciate how streets can be activated by a robust, citywide outdoor dining program.

The zoning amendment would make thousands of restaurants eligible for a sidewalk café. It would facilitate expanding the benefits of outdoor dining to all New York City neighborhoods.

The emergency program remains in effect into 2022, allowing transition time to a future Permanent Open Restaurants program.

Benefits of Permanent Open Restaurants

  • Remove outdated prohibitions on sidewalk cafes
  • Support outdoor dining in more areas of the city
  • Create jobs
  • Activate our streets
  • Simplify and streamline rules under a single agency with clear rules & enforcement mechanisms

How will the current zoning rules change?

People seated at a sidewalk café talking to a server

Existing zoning rules restrict where sidewalk cafes are eligible and what types of cafes can exist in different areas. The zoning text amendment would eliminate these geographic restrictions.

 

See a map of existing sidewalk café restrictions on ZoLa


Next steps

The Open Restaurants text amendment entered public review on June 21, 2021. Like all proposed changes to the Zoning Resolution, it will be reviewed by Community Boards and Borough Presidents with public meetings for New Yorkers to learn more and give their feedback. This process is anticipated to move in parallel to legislative changes necessary to facilitate the permanent Open Restaurants program.

What changes besides zoning are planned for Permanent Open Restaurants?

This proposal is the first of a series of changes to create the permanent Open Restaurants program.

In addition to the zoning amendment, the City will move administration of the sidewalk café program from the Department of Consumer Affairs and Workforce Protection to DOT, streamline the application process and create rules for a permanent roadway dining program.

Altogether, restaurants will have a single agency to go to apply for outdoor dining, with a clear set of design guidelines on what is allowed.

 

For more information and to ask questions, please contact: OpenRestaurantsText@planning.nyc.gov.