FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 24, 2005
New Yorkers and visitors alike love dining al fresco
at cafés. With more than 900 restaurants having
applied so far for a license this season, the New York
City Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) today reported
the new licensing process is making the season easier
to enjoy for both restaurants and communities. Sidewalk
café applications have skyrocketed by 18% since
the new, streamlined process went into effect in 2003,
and the number of applications this year already exceeds
last year’s record of 880 operating cafes. In addition,
violations issued to restaurants for operating cafes
without a license decreased by approximately 10% over
the past year. Officials credit success to the revamped
café licensing law that made it easier for restaurants
to get licensed and significantly strengthened the penalties
for establishments that repeatedly operate illegal cafés.
Zoning changes advanced by the Department of City Planning
also opened up many previously restricted streets to "small" outdoor
cafes last year.
"New Yorkers and visitors alike are taking advantage
of summer and outdoor cafés are booming with diners
enjoying great food and watching the sights," said
DCA Acting Commissioner Jonathan Mintz. "Restaurants
get sidewalk café licenses faster than ever, applications
are at an all-time high, and most establishments are
playing by the rules and thriving. With the help of increased
inspections and ongoing dialogue with Community Boards,
we are leveling the playing field for law-abiding restaurants
by keeping a keen eye out for operators that run illegal
cafes and are neighborhood nuisances. For those operating
illegally, tough penalties are on the menu year-round."
"New York City boasts the best restaurants in the
world and outdoor cafes are a valuable amenity," said
Doug Griebel, owner of Rosa Mexicano and President of
the NYC Chapter of the NYS Restaurant Association. "The
City has moved in the right direction by helping businesses
get café licenses faster, and protecting legitimate
businesses with penalties for those who repeatedly operate
"Outdoor cafes are enjoyable, but when they operate
illegally and suffer from ‘café creep,’ they
become more of a headache for communities," said
Anthony Borelli, District Manager of Community Board
4 in Manhattan. "There has been a lot of progress
- new rules that encourage compliance and make enforcement
easier have helped control the volume of illegal cafes
and brought us some relief."
The approval process, which previously took as much
as a year and a half, has been reduced to a maximum of
110 days, and averages 80 days or less, while still including
full public review by Community Boards and approval by
the City Council.
"The process for my café renewal application
improved by one-thousand percent," said Barry Cullen,
owner of Sazerac House in downtown Manhattan.
Strengthened enforcement allows the City to close restaurants
that repeatedly break the sidewalk café rules,
rather than rely on the past practice of seizing usually-inexpensive
tables and chairs. Operators of unlicensed sidewalk cafes
found to have violated the law two times within two years
could have their restaurants padlocked for as many as
thirty days. "We now have a penalty most operators
take seriously," Mintz stressed.
"DCA’s new unenclosed sidewalk café process
has helped us more effectively review applications while
balancing the needs of the neighborhood," said Penny
Ryan, District Manager of Community Board 7 in Manhattan. "Enforcement
has been strengthened and DCA responds swiftly to complaints
about problem or illegal cafes."
Since the new law was passed in 2003, DCA has had to
shut only one restaurant for one day in 2004 (Café Lex
located at 1402 Lexington Avenue in Manhattan) after
being caught repeatedly operating without a café license.
Violations for unlicensed activity are down, with 16%
of the nearly 1,400 inspections in 2004 yielding citations,
down from 26% of 890 inspections the year before. Licensed
operators who put out more tables than allowed, encroach
on the sidewalks, or fail to maintain insurance risk
having their restaurants padlocked for up to thirty days
after three violations within two years. To date, no
licensed café has been shut.
DCA licenses more than 60,000 businesses in 55 different
categories and enforces the Consumer Protection Law and
other related laws at thousands of businesses throughout
New York City. For complete license applications and
sidewalk café design guidelines, call 311 (or
212-NEW-YORK outside New York City) or go online to the
DCA website at www.nyc.gov/consumers.