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Manhattan Community Board 10 reviews applications for sidewalk cafe licenses in order to identify and fairly consider the interests of merchants and the desire of their patrons for sidewalk seating, and the community's interests in sidewalk life and freedom from obstruction, noise, litter, and other nuisances. We review architects’ plans for proposed cafes, take note of minimum requirements imposed by the City, and then attempt to find the best way to accommodate competing interests.
All entities wishing to operate a sidewalk café must apply to the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs for a "revocable consent" (i.e. a license that may be revoked if the licensee disregards its restrictions).
To verify the proposed location falls within the boundaries of CB 10, the boundaries are as follows:
Bounded by Fifth Avenue on the east; Central Park on the south; Morningside Park, Saint Nicholas and Edgecombe Avenues on the west and the Harlem River on the north.
Every application to the Department of Consumer Affairs must include:
- Written consent of the owner of the property in front of which the cafe would be operated;
- Ten copies of a floor plan showing: frontage and proportional width; location of all tables (this includes portable busing stations, chairs, gratings, cellar doors, doors to adjacent premises, fire-escape drop ladders; dimensions of sidewalk area) and the locations of street obstructions (e.g. subway entrances, bus-stop shelters, newsstands, public telephones, and other street furniture);
- Ten copies of an elevation diagram showing: any awnings and canopies (indicating their capability for retraction); locations of door and window openings, fire escapes, drop ladders, and counterbalanced stairs; height of any platforms and railings; and side view tables (including portable busing stations).
These additional regulations apply only to unenclosed cafes:
- The cafe may not obstruct the means of egress from any portion of a building;
- No surface cover or treatment of any kind (e.g. paint, Astroturf) may be applied to the public sidewalk;
- The maximum height permitted for any railing, fence, or planter (including vegetation) is thirty inches above the sidewalk;
- A cafe awning requires a separate permit from the Department of Buildings and must be adequately secured, retractable, and made of non-combustible materials;
- Fixtures of the cafe are to be removed from the sidewalk during the cafe's off-season.
These additional regulations apply only to enclosed cafes:
- Separation between the near end-walls of neighboring enclosed cafes must be at least fifteen feet when the intervening use is non-commercial; separation between the near-end walls of neighboring enclosed cafes must be at least forty feet when the intervening use is commercial;
- An enclosed cafe must be constructed to maximize transparency: glass/plastic must be non-tinted and non-reflective; vertical supports cannot be more than ten inches wide; and at least fifty percent of wall space must be comprised of operable windows;
- A base wall of opaque material may be constructed to a maximum height of twelve inches above the floor level; all horizontal structural supports must be included within the base wall;
- The floor may be no more than seven inches above the sidewalk;
- A cafe awning must be adequately secured, retractable, and made of non-combustible materials approved by the Department of Buildings;
- At its lowest point, the ceiling (or awning) must be at least seven feet above the floor.
The application process is as follows:
I. Unenclosed and Enclosed Cafes : Agency Review
Within five days of the filing of the application, the Department of Consumer Affairs provides copies of the application to: the Department of City Planning, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Environmental Protection, and the Landmarks Preservation Commission for the purpose of review; as well as the City Council Speaker and Member in whose district the cafe would be located for informational purposes; and Manhattan Community Board 10 for review.
City agencies have twenty-one days to provide written comments to the Deparment of Consumer Affairs. For any proposed cafe located in an historic district, on a landmark site, or adjacent to a restaurant located in a landmark, the Landmarks Preservation Commission determines whether a Certificate of Appropriateness is required. In cases where the Landmarks Preservation Commission requires such a certificate, the cafe applicant is responsible for following all Landmarks Preservation Commission regulations and guidelines in applying for the Certificate of Appropriateness.
Silence by an agency is taken by the Department Consumer Affairs to be assent to the application as submitted. (The Department of Consumer Affairs informs the applicant of any agency objections to the application. If objections remain unresolved for thirty days, the application is considered withdrawn. If the objections are resolved within the prescribed period, the Department of Consumer Affairs holds a public hearing and takes further actions as described below).
II. Unenclosed and Enclosed Cafes : Community Board Hearing and Review
Within forty-five days of receipt of the application from the Department of Consumer Affairs, Manhattan Community Board 10 holds a public hearing on that application. Before the public hearing takes place, the applicant will be notified by the Manhattan Community Board 10 District Office via e-mail to submit a CB 10 Sidewalk Café Applicant Checklist. The Manhattan Community Board 10 Sidewalk Café Application Checklist must be filled out in full, and must be received by the Manhattan Community Board 10 District Office no later than two weeks prior to the next scheduled Economic Development Committee meeting in order to be considered for that meeting. For a schedule of upcoming Economic Development Committee meetings, please click here. Manhattan Community Board 10 requires applicants to post a standard-format Manhattan Community Board 10 public hearing notice conspicuously at the location of the proposed sidewalk cafe for at least fifteen days in advance of the next scheduled Economic Development Committee meeting.
Failure to fill out the requested materials will result in a negative recommendation for the application by Manhattan Community Board 10.
In addition, the applicant must notify, at least fifteen days in advance of this hearing, all residents of its building (and the President of any Board of Directors of the building's Condominium Association or Cooperative Corporation) as well as all owners of properties and all ground-floor occupants of buildings within a 200-foot radius. After an application has been received by the Manhattan Community Board 10 District Office, the Economic Development Committee will review the application and request the applicant to attend the next Economic Development Committee meeting. The Economic Development Committee generally meets the second Thursday of each month (except July and August) at the Manhattan Community Board 10’s District Office, located at 215 West 125th Street – 4th floor. Upon reviewing the application and hearing public testimony, the Committee develops a recommendation to present to the full Community Board. This may be a resolution of approval or of disapproval, or of approval contingent on some action(s) of the applicant.
If the Economic Development Committee requires the applicant to amend the plans, the amended plans (stamped by the Department of Consumer Affairs) must be provided to the Community Board 10 District Office before the next meeting of the full Board.
The full Community Board generally meets the first Wednesday of each month (except July and August). The full Board may or may not adopt the Economic Development Committee's recommendation on the application. Reversal is a possibility, as is an amendment, or even referral back to the Economic Committee for further consideration of the application.
Based on its public hearing, Manhattan Community Board 10 then forwards a written recommendation on the application to the Department of Consumer Affairs.
Applicants may contact the District Office at (212) 749-3105 Monday through Friday from 9 am to 5 pm in order to confirm dates and locations of full Board and Committee meetings.
III. Unenclosed and Enclosed Cafes: Department of Consumer Affairs Hearing and Review
Within thirty days after expiration of the Community Board's forty-five day review period, the Department of Consumer Affairs holds its public hearing on the application. In preparation for the Department of Consumer Affair’s public hearing, the applicant is again required to post a public hearing notice in a place "conspicuous to public view at the location of the proposed sidewalk cafe" for at least fifteen days in advance of the hearing. In addition, the applicant must notify, by certified or registered mail at least fifteen days in advance of the hearing, all residents of its building as well as all owners of properties and all ground-floor occupants of buildings along its block front. At the same time, the Department of Consumer Affairs notifies Manhattan Community Board 10 and the City Council Member in whose district the cafe would be located. Based on its public hearing, the Department of Consumer Affairs approves or disapproves the application or approves it with modifications. The Department of Consumer Affairs is required to file notice of any approval (whether with or without modifications) of an application with the City Council.
Please note these guidelines are not an official statement of City regulations; applicants should consult relevant laws and regulations.