Design Professional Requirements:
Sidewalk Cafés

Applicability of Code and Zoning

A Sidewalk Café project could be filed under either the current codes, the 2014 NYC Construction Codes (Building, Plumbing, Fuel Gas and Mechanical Codes) review, or under prior codes, such as the 1968 Code, or earlier Codes, depending on the age of the existing building; reference Administrative Code Section 28-101.3. However, there are exceptions if prior codes are used, per AC 28-101.4.3. For example, the 2014 Code must be used for some accessibility requirements, certain renovation work of mechanical, plumbing, sprinkler, fire protection and/or fuel gas systems, specific building elements such as security grilles, handrails, guards, roofs, etc., and certain kinds of structural work.  Additionally, a sidewalk café project must comply also with the current New York City Zoning Resolution, NYC Energy Conservation Code and other applicable Local Laws.

When required by the project scope of work the sidewalk café must also comply with the rules, regulations, laws and Codes of other City agencies, such as the NYC Fire Department (FDNY), NYC Environmental Protection (DEP), NYC Transportation (DOT), NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, NYC Landmarks Commission, NYC Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA), Office of Environmental Remediation, NYC Department of Parks and Recreation and others.

NOTE: While the following is a list of key zoning, Code and other regulations that may be relevant in the design of the project, it does not cover ALL applicable regulations.

NYC Construction Codes

A listing of typical code and zoning resolution that must be considered:


Project Element

Applicable Code and Regulations

Current Code*

Prior Codes




Sidewalk Cafés as Special Construction

2014 BC 3111

Encroachments into the Public Right-of-Way (awning, details, etc.)

2014 BC 3202 and BC 912.3

Occupant Load, and Egress Width

BC 1004 and BC 1005

§27-354 through §27-359

Article 7

Exit, Exit Access Doorways, and Exit Access Travel Distance

BC 1015 and BC 1016

§27-354 through §27-396.6

Article 7

Aisles, Corridors & Number of Exits and Continuity

BC 1017, BC 1018 and BC 1021

§27-354 through §27-396.6

Article 7

Place of Assembly

BC 1028

Title 27/Subchapter 8

Article 18

Accessible Route and Accessible Entrances

2014 BC 1104 and BC 1105

Light-transmitting Plastic Glazing and Skylight

2014 BC 2606 and BC 2610


BC 3105

2014 BC 3105 and 1968 AC §27-313(e)

2014 BC 3105 and §C26-219.0(g) and §C26-347.1

Fire Partitions

BC Chapter 7

Title 27/Subchapter 5

Article 11

Fire Protection

BC Chapter 9 and Appendix Q

2014 AC §28-315.2, 2014 BC Chapter 9 and Appendix Q

Interior Environment

BC Chapter 12, Appendix R, and MC Chapters 4 through 6

§27-725 through §27-770

Articles 6, 12 and 15

Special Flood Hazard Zone, Tidal Wetlands Zone, Fresh Water Wetlands, and Coastal Erosion Hazard Area

2014 BC Appendix G and ASCE 24-05)


NYC Zoning Resolutions

Other Regulations

  • Local Law 137/13

NYC Department of Transportation

NYC Department of Consumer Affairs


  1. New open Sidewalk Café
  1. New enclosed sidewalk café – separated by the existing building envelope
  • No mechanical equipment, then the Sidewalk Café is not conditioned and that space is considered a low-energy building.  The envelope and HVAC provisions would not apply, and only the lighting provisions would apply
  1. New enclosed Sidewalk Café – building envelope removed
  1. Existing unconditioned Sidewalk Café – building envelope removed
  1. Existing conditioned Sidewalk Café – building envelope removed
  • No change, since the café is already conditioned, the café walls are acting as the thermal envelope and the Code does not require any change to this if it is lawfully in existence.  The building envelope removal would be treated as an interior wall.

Guidelines for Submission of Sidewalk Café Installation Project Plans

Prior to preparing the design documents and construction drawings, the Registered Design Professional must perform a pre-design review that analyzes all of the building elements, systems and other components affected by the proposed scope of work, to verify a Code-compliant installation or modification of the Sidewalk Café. Based upon the complexity and scale of the project, the information provided on the drawings must clearly describe all of the work required for the code compliant execution and completion of the project per 2014 AC Article 104 or BC 107.2.

The Department’s guidelines outlined in the following section provide an organized approach for the preparation of construction documents; this will facilitate the plan review process. Drawings shall clearly indicate existing and proposed conditions and any area affected by the scope of work..

Complete Submission of Construction Documents

Construction documents should represent complete work, including multiple disciplines such as architectural, structural, plumbing, electrical, mechanical, and others.  There must be close coordination between all disciplines for the proposed scope of work to ensure code compliance; reference AC 28-104.7 and BC 107.2 for information on submittal of and required construction documents..A complete submission of drawings shall include:

Construction Documents.  Drawings necessary to convey essential information such as floor layouts, elevations, schedules and details. The applicable Building Codes and notes should be stated on the drawings as required to demonstrate Code and zoning compliance. Where essential to clarify overall layouts and details, a scale should be included on the drawings; a graphic scale is recommended.

  • Title Sheet. Should clearly describe the project location, including the adjacent streets, properties, etc. and a graphical scale. Drawing notes should include building occupancy classification, zoning use group, construction classification, and the project scope.
  • Drawing Index. Identify discipline (A, M, P, etc.) and drawing number (100.00, 101.00, etc.) for all included plans, sections, elevations, details, schedules, etc.
  • Site/Plot Plan.  Clearly show the size and location of the lot, show all existing structures on the zoning lot, and include all dimensions and other relevant information such as streets, adjacent buildings, curb cuts, north arrow, etc. The area of proposed work shall be clearly identified.
  • Floor Plans.  Show existing and proposed conditions; clearly identify room names and use the names consistently between the different discipline drawings.  Coordinate between all trades/disciplines to ensure that the proposed scope of work is complete and shown on all submitted discipline drawings. Where required, drawings must indicate fire rating for partitions, ceiling, walls; location of penetrations through fire rated assemblies; and schedules for doors, windows and finishes materials.
  • Façade Elevations.  Required if the project involves the renovation or modification of the building exterior and in some cases also required for modifications to egress that may impact the façade.
  • Cross Sections.  Might be required for documenting some types of renovation projects. These could include building cross sections.
  • Detail Drawings.  These drawings contain significant information required to clearly communicate the scope of work, in a magnified form.
  • Energy Analysis.  If the project scope includes one of the following, then energy analysis is required on the plans:
    • Alterations to existing or installation of new piping carrying mechanically heated or cooled fluid
    • penetrations through the thermal envelope
    • construction elements that affect the insulation
    • lighting fixture replacement, equipment replacement, equipment controls replacement, and/or dampers.

If applicable, additional elements required on drawings include:

  • Accessibility for persons with physical disabilities, such as accessible building entrances, to comply with BC Chapter 11
  • Building systems and equipment details*
  • Flood zone compliance

*Refers to Construction Project Guidelines for Building System Installation and Modification projects.

Submission of Construction Documents

1. Drawings. The Sidewalk Café project drawings should reflect clear scope of work and include all affected systems. Examples of this are as follows:

Designator -
Sheet Number:
Sheet Description:
T-001.00 Title Sheet, Site Plan, Drawing Index, General Notes, required Special/Progress Inspections list, and Legends
A-100.00 Existing Floor Plans
A-101.00 Proposed Floor Plans
A-200.00 Proposed Reflected Ceiling Plans (if applicable)
A-300.00 Proposed Enlarged Floor Plans, Interior Elevations and Details
A-400.00 Existing and Proposed Façade Elevations
A-401.00 Existing and Proposed Cross Sections (if applicable)
P-100.00 Plumbing Plans - Riser Diagram/Gas Riser Diagram – Piping
SP-100.00 Sprinkler Floor Plan (if applicable)
EN-100.00 Energy Code Analysis (if applicable)

Drawing Legend to include: Symbols, abbreviations, notes and definition, and list all applicable Building Code section numbers.

Recommended Drawing Designators
A: Architectural: Mandatory designation for drawings showing architectural work.
M: Mechanical: Mandatory designation for plans showing mechanical work.
P: Plumbing: Mandatory designation for drawings showing plumbing work including riser diagrams and plumbing details
SP: Sprinkler: Mandatory designation for drawings showing sprinkler work including floor plans, riser diagram and sprinkler system details
EN: Energy Analysis: Mandatory designation if an Energy Analysis is required

2. Required Documents. Based on the building location and designation, and the project scope of work, the following submissions may have to accompany the drawings at intake:

  • NYC Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) or OER authorization
  • FDNY – Notification or Letters of No Objection
  • Tenant/Occupant Protection Plan, only if applicable
  • Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities (MOPD)
  • FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) – FEMA Maps
  • Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) approval
  • NYC Department of Transportation (DOT) – Including revocable consent, if applicable
  • NYC Landmark Preservation Commission (LPC) approval
  • NYC Public Design Commission (PDC) approval

3. Post Approval Amendments.  Any changes to approved scope of work that are significant and substantive will require submission of revised documents and/or plans as a post-approval amendment (PAA).  Approval of an amendment must be obtained before the work is completed. Changes that are not substantive do not require a PAA; however these changes must be shown on plans and included in the ‘As Built’ submission at the end of the project (§28-104.3).

Substantive changes that meet the following criteria should be submitted for review as a PAA to amend the approved plans:

  • Expand scope of work to include additional space not shown on the approved plans. For example, expand café farther into public right of way.
  • Any amended approvals from DCA, DCP, LPC, etc.
  • Change in layout affecting egress or seating arrangement.
  • Expand scope to add, install or modify building systems.

4. As-Built Submission. All changes must be submitted in an ‘as-built’ drawing at the end of the project.

Special Inspections

As per Chapter 17 of the Building Code, renovation work may require certain Special and Progress Inspections to be performed during and at the end of construction as outlined in the table below. Prior to Approval, the Applicant of Record is required to identify all required Special and Progress Inspections (BC 1704.1). Prior to DOB permit issuance, the Owner must typically engage a registered Special Inspection Agency (SIA) who will take responsibility for the Special and Progress Inspections. The Applicant of Record may perform these inspections if they are also an SIA.

Based on the scope of work, a renovation project may be required to comply with the following Special and Progress Inspection requirements:

Sprayed fire-resistant materials

Special Inspections for sprayed  fire-resistant materials applied to floor, roof and wall assemblies and structural members shall be in accordance with Sections 1704.11.1 through 1704.11.7.

Structural Stability – Existing Buildings

Alteration of existing structural systems or elements, such as columns, girders, beams, bearing walls, etc. where the stability or integrity of a structural system is to be temporarily diminished, in accordance with Sections 1704.20.6 through 1704.20.10.

Fire-resistant Penetration and Joints

Special Inspections for penetration of fire-resistant elements and assemblies; and related firestops in accordance with Sections 1704.27.1 and 1704.27.2

Flood Zone Compliance

Special Inspection for flood zone compliance shall be as required by BC Appendix G and BC 1704.29.

Mechanical Systems

BC 1704.16

Fire-Resistance-Rated Construction

Fire resistance-rated partitions, floors, ceilings, shafts, and shutters as per BC 110.3.4

Energy Code Compliance Inspections

  • Penetrations Through Thermal Envelope - must be sealed to minimize air leakage as per 2016 NYCECC R402.4 and C402.5.1
  • Dampers Integral to Building Envelope - outdoor air dampers must close when system is off
  • HVAC & Service Water heating equipment: meets sizing and efficiency requirements as per 2016 NYCECC Tables C403.2.3(1) through C403.2.3(7) and Table C404.2
  • HVAC & Service Water Heating System Controls - applicable part-load, reset, temperature controls  as per NYCECC C403.2.4 and C404.6
  • Piping Insulation - minimum thickness of 1” to 4.5”, required on piping carrying fluids >105F as per  NYCECC Table C403.2.10 and C404.4
  • Interior Lighting Power - Installed lighting shall be verified for compliance with lighting power allowance per NYCECC C405.4 and C406.3
  • Exterior Lighting Power - Installed lighting shall be verified for compliance with source efficacy and/or the lighting power allowance as per NYCECC C405.5
  • Lighting Controls - Each type of required lighting controls shall be verified and tested for functionality and proper operation as per NYCECC C405.2
  • Exit Signs - shall not exceed maximum permitted wattage as per NYCECC C405.3
  • Maintenance Information -  shall be furnished for installation of new equipment as per NYCECC R303.3 and C303.3
  • Permanent Certificate - shall list type and efficiency of heating, cooling, and/or service water heating systems as per NYCECC R401.3

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