New York City Launches Open Restaurant Program

New York City Launches Open Restaurant Program

By Andrew Pisani

To help restaurants survive these challenging economic times, New York City has launched the Open Restaurant Program. The program will allow existing food establishments to expand outdoor seating options by placing seating on the sidewalk and/or roadway.

Temporary Street Closures

The city will temporarily close streets to traffic on select restaurant corridors throughout the five boroughs to create outdoor dining space on weekends. The Department of Transportation (DOT) began accepting applications for the program on Monday, June 29, allowing community-based organizations, business improvement districts (BIDs), and restaurant groups to apply through a single entity.

The first batch of street closures will begin the weekend of July 4, followed by a second batch on Friday, July 17. The hours for expanded seating will be as follows:

  • 5:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., Fridays
  • 12:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays

The expanded seating will continue until Labor Day.

Siting Requirements for Outdoor Dining Areas

Before submitting an application, food establishments must determine whether their location qualifies to sidewalk and/or roadway seating area.

Sidewalk Seating

  • Seating and tables must be positioned against the wall of the building (or as close as possible).
  • The seating area may not extend beyond the business frontage.
  • The expanded dining area must leave an 8-foot path clear for pedestrian traffic.
  • The seating must be located at least 3 feet away from adjacent businesses.
  • Expanded seating cannot block bus stop waiting areas, utility hardware, or Siamese water connections.
  • Parking meters, traffic signs, and tree pits without guards are allowed for clear path purposes. Any other above-grade structures are considered obstructions.
  • Applicants must provide tables and chairs.

Roadway Seating

  • DOT permission is required prior to any roadway closure for table set-up.
  • Using planters or other objects of similar size and weight, restaurants must create a protective barrier on all three sides of the roadway seating perimeter to separate the seating area from the travel lane. Barriers must measure at least 18” wide and between 30” and 36” in height (excluding plantings).
  • Barriers must be positioned next to one another, without gaps, and located no more than 8 feet from the curb.
  • Roadway seating may not extend beyond the length of the business frontage.
  • At night, all barriers must be marked with yellow high-intensity retro-reflective tape or reflectors.
  • Restaurants must provide a ramp, which can be made of non-permanent materials, for ADA compliance.
  • Seating and barriers may not be positioned within 15 feet of a fire hydrant or within 8 feet of a crosswalk.
  • Use of lighting that would blind passing traffic is prohibited.
  • Seating may not be placed within zones designated or No Stopping Anytime or No Standing Anytime, such as bike lanes, taxi stands, etc. Seating may be placed in part-time No Stopping or No Standing zones, provided that barriers and seating are removed when those rules are in effect.
  • Umbrellas must have a weighted base, and the umbrella canopies cannot extend past barriers or obstruct access to, or ventilation of, utility covers.
  • Restaurants may not run power cords or similar items across the sidewalk to the roadway.
  • Applicants must provide tables, chairs, and barriers.
  • Tables and chairs must be removed or secured in place when not in use.
  • Roadway seating spaces must comply with NYC Fire Department Open Flame and other fire codes.

Open Restaurants Application Requirements

Food establishments that meet the above requirements must provide the following information:

  • Business name (DBA), address, and contact information
  • Food Service Establishment Permit number
  • Dimensions of sidewalk and/or roadway seating areas

In addition, the following must be provided for those establishments planning to serve alcohol:

  • State Liquor Authority (SLA) serial number
  • SLA license information
  • Licensee certification

If you have any questions about the program or need assistance, please contact Metropolis Group at 212.233.6344.